New Report on Sweetened Beverage Taxes Shows Effect on Health
The USDA'S Economic Research Service recently published a report on the connection between obesity and the overconsumption of added sugars from sweetened beverages. Researchers estimated that a 20% price increase from a tax could reduce daily calories by about 35-45 per day, leading to weight loss over one year of 3.8 pounds in adults and 4.5 pounds in children. The weight loss would reduce the rate of overweight in adults from 66.9 to 62.4% and in children from 16.6 to 13.7%.
Chocolate Toddler Formula Discontinued
The company that marketed a controversial chocolate-flavored toddler formula product decided to start pulling it from store shelves in June, just two months after the product was introduced. Enfagrow Premium Chocolate — designed for children ages 12 to 36 months — received criticism for its poor nutritional content from parents and public health advocates.
“Enfagrow Premium Chocolate has 19 grams of sugar (4.5 teaspoons) per seven-ounce serving,” according to Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, and Mary Story, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, in their Atlantic blog. “With obesity rampant around the world, we do not need children being introduced at young ages to hyper-sweet and hyper-palatable foods such as sugar-sweetened fortified chocolate milk. It is not likely to bode well for subsequent eating habits and food preferences.”
The formula's manufacturer, Mead Johnson, will continue to sell the vanilla and unflavored versions.
Obesity Rates Increased in Most U.S. States
The Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released their annual F as in Fat report on obesity trends in the United States. This year’s subtitle, “How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” illustrates the serious impact of the public health challenge. Adult obesity increased in 28 states in the last year, up from 23 states in the year prior. Rates for African American and Latino adults were higher than Whites in 80% of states.
Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, provided his perspective on obesity prevention and control in the report. “Leaders are ready to do something,” he said. “The question is how best to proceed.” He highlighted the importance of changing defaults in the food environment such as food marketing to children (including cereal). He also discussed taxing sugar-sweetened beverages. Dr. Brownell and Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have shown the potential of a sugared beverage tax on reducing consumption, obesity, and generating revenue.
The report also highlights the nature and frequency of weight bias, which has increased by 66% in the past decade in the United States and is as prevalent as racial discrimination. An Executive Summary of the report is available.
Rudd Center in the Media
Obesity and food policy are in the news now more than ever. Our faculty has been on the front lines, including Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director, and Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director. Dr. Brownell was interviewed by CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report on the consumer, government, and health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. He also appeared on NPR’s On Point to discuss what can be done about the childhood obesity epidemic in America. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart featured an interview with Dr. Schwartz on the importance of government regulation in the obesity epidemic.
Just Published by the Rudd Center
U.S. adults are in favor of legislation to prohibit weight discrimination, particularly in the workplace, according to a Rudd Center study published online in the May issue of Obesity. The authors, Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, and Chelsea A. Heuer, MPH, Research Associate, found public support for workplace laws that would prevent employers from refusing to hire, denying promotions to, assigning lower wages to, or terminating qualified obese employees based on their weight. While legislation has been discussed for several decades as a potential solution to prohibit weight discrimination, no federal laws currently exist.
Children prefer the taste of junk foods branded with licensed cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters, according to a Rudd Center study published in the July issue of Pediatrics. The study showed for the first time a causal relationship between licensed characters on food packaging and children’s taste and snack preferences. The findings suggest a need for regulation to curtail the use of licensed characters in the marketing of low-nutrient, high-energy foods. Co-authors include Christina A. Roberto, MS, a Yale PhD student in Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology and Public Health; Jenny Baik, BA; Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives; and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director.
Sugared Beverage Tax Endorsements and Recommendations
A new resource is available for those interested in sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. The Rudd Center created a list of national organizations and institutions that support these taxes, recommend more research on the efficacy of this promising strategy, or have called for a decrease in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as a part of the national effort to reduce obesity and overweight. The document quotes the pertinent statement from each organization, and provides links to the full statement.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A newly introduced bill, the Healthy School Meals Act, would provide additional funding to school districts for offering each day options such as low-fat and high-fiber vegetarian entrees and non-dairy milk to most students. The bill, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), cites the health benefits of a plant-based diet and follows federal dietary guidelines for school meals.
New Resource: Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies
The Connecticut State Department of Education recently developed the Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies. The guide can help community child care, early education, and after-school programs establish and implement policies and practices that encourage healthy lifestyles in children. The goal is to create an environment that:
- Provides clear and consistent messages that explain and reinforce healthy eating and physical activity habits.
- Helps children learn to make healthy lifestyle choices.
- Provides developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant nutrition education.
- Provides high quality physical education and daily opportunities for developmentally appropriate physical activity.
- Supports and engages families in promoting healthy habits.
The guide includes best practices for children from infancy through school age, based on current science, public health research, and national recommendations and standards.
Free Summer Meals Program for New Haven Children
Free breakfasts and lunches are available for all children up to age 18 in New Haven, Connecticut from July 6 to August 6. No application or registration is required.
Employment Opportunities at the Rudd Center
If you would like to work toward improving the world’s diet, preventing obesity, and reducing weight stigma, read about the open positions at the Rudd Center: Research Assistant in Public Policy (Part-Time) and Research Associate for Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director.
The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts
Corinna Hawkes, PhD
Consultant in Food and Nutrition Policy; Visiting Fellow, Centre for Food Policy, City University London
The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine — Nutrition & Obesity section, or can be subscribed to through an RSS Feed that automatically updates when new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.