Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

February 2012

Yale Peabody Museum Hosts Hands-On Exhibition on ‘Big Food’


Visitors to the new exhibition at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History can investigate the origins of humans as hunter-gatherers and identify popular processed foods by just their ingredients. They also can explore an interactive timeline on food history while pedaling a custom-designed exercise bike.

Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating opens on February 11 and will be displayed through December 2. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Yale Peabody Museum, Yale’s Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE), and the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

Big Food explores the neuroscience of appetite, genetics of obesity, and energy balance in the body. It also examines nutrition and exercise in relation to behavioral choice and social, environmental, and cultural settings.

The exhibition investigates societal pressures such as the progressive growth of portion sizes. It tackles media influences on food preferences and considers serious health consequences that have increased the burden of chronic diseases.

The opening celebration will be from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, February 11. It will feature family-oriented activities and displays by local food- and health-related organizations that promote healthy lifestyle choices, physical fitness, food system sustainability, and environmental justice.

USDA Sets Healthier Standards for School Meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama recently unveiled new standards for school meals that will provide healthier meals to the 32 million children who participate in the school meal program.

“These new standards represent a significant step forward for school meals," said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center. “The USDA did a remarkable job responding to the comments from nutrition advocates, food service professionals, and parents.”

Starting next fall, school meals will include a daily variety of fruits and vegetables, use more whole grains, and continue to have reductions in sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat. For the first time, schools will offer only fat-free and low-fat milk—a change that will significantly decrease the amount of saturated fat in school beverages. Another noteworthy change is that school meals will have calorie minimums and maximums based on children's ages.

"These federal standards set a much stronger floor for regulating school meals," said Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Rudd Center Director of School and Community Initiatives. "Many states and individual districts have already built upon federal requirements and promoted even better nutrition in schools."

The new meal requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed last year by President Obama.

Researchers Call for Regulations on Sugar

Sugar is toxic and should be designated as a controlled substance, according to an editorial published in the journal Nature by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco. The researchers argued that sugar consumption can be reduced using strategies that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption, including taxing sugary foods and regulating sales.

"This paper adds yet more evidence that sugar consumption is a real public health problem," according to Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director of the Rudd Center. "In addition to the metabolic problems it creates, the body does not recognize calories very well when they are delivered in liquids, and far too many calories are in liquids because of soda and other sugared beverages. Research has also suggested that sugar activates the same brain reward pathways activated by highly addictive substances of abuse. There is abundant reason, therefore, to create policies, such as a tax on sugared beverages, to help decrease sugar consumption."

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

February 8, 12:30 pm
Thomas C. O'Guinn, PhD
Professor, University of Wisconsin School of Business
Branded Reality: The Construction of Commercial Social Reality

February 29, 12:30 pm
W. Douglas Tynan, PhD, ABPP
Director, Program Development and Implementation, Nemours Health & Prevention Services
Transforming Early Childcare to Promote Healthy Habits

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for the Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Legislation Update: Advertisements on School Buses

Corporations spend billions of dollars each year to market their products to children. Cash-strapped school districts around the country are selling ad space on the interior and exterior of their school buses to raise money to support transportation costs and school programs. Unless prohibited by state law or district policies, school districts have the authority to pursue the sale of advertising space on buses. Many state legislators are filing bills to support the practice.

Read about these bills in the Rudd Center’s Legislation Database (click Marketing/Advertising to Children) and a fact sheet on the issue. 

Rudd Center Spotlight: W. Douglas Tynan, PhD, ABPP

TynanW. Douglas Tynan, PhD, ABPP, Director for Program Development and Implementation at Nemours Health & Prevention Services (NHPS), will discuss promoting healthy habits in early child care settings on February 29 during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series.

Working with partner organizations, NHPS develops initiatives to promote social, emotional, and physical health for children in family, primary care, child care, after school, and school settings. Under Dr. Tynan’s leadership, NHPS’ current programs focus on health promotion with an emphasis on healthy eating, physical activity, parenting skills, and healthy habits.

Dr. Tynan served on the staff at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, where he developed a program that trains pediatric and psychology residents in the assessment and intervention of behavior problems in children in primary care settings. He continues to develop the use of the electronic medical record to provide health information and community links to parents.

He has served as a consultant to Head Start and the Commissioner for Children & Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He has been a member of the Committee for the Evaluation of Head Start for the Assistant Secretary for Children & Families. He currently serves on the Early Childhood Council for the State of Delaware.

Dr. Tynan is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College, Senior Fellow at Jefferson School of Population Health, and a faculty member of the Delaware Health Science Alliance.

Best and Worst Marketing Practices

Grocery Chain Helps Keep Children Healthy

Giant Food, a supermarket chain with stores in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., is hosting healthy hands-on field trips at its stores, creating a website that features interactive games and handouts on healthy eating, and offering a program where shoppers can earn points for their schools if they purchase healthy food. Read more.

Newton’s Fruit Thins and Fruit Crisps Not ‘Made with Real Fruit’

The product names of Newton’s new Fruit Thins and Fruit Crisps and the large print on the packaging—“made with real fruit”—imply that these products contain a significant amount of fruit. However, the main ingredients are flour, sugar, palm oil, oats, and cornstarch. Fruit appears as the sixth or seventh ingredient. Read more.

Have you seen a best or worst food marketing practice?
Send them to the Rudd Center.

Weight Stigma in the Name of Science?

Families offer to donate the bodies of their deceased loved ones for the purpose of medical research. Many body donation programs are turning down donation requests if the deceased person is obese.

“Given that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, it seems imperative that upcoming generations of medical students have multiple opportunities to learn how to effectively treat and provide medical care to obese patients,“ according to Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives in a recent blog on Medscape.

The blog is the latest in a series about weight bias by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Proper Use of the First Amendment Law

The First Amendment is often used as a barrier when government restrictions on food marketing to children are proposed; however, proper interpretation of the First Amendment’s commercial speech doctrine should leave room for regulations protecting children from advertising featuring unhealthy foods and beverages, according to a recent paper in the American Journal of Public Health. The authors’ assertion, coupled with the overall political, scientific, and legal climate, suggests that there are incongruities between the legal justifications for the commercial speech doctrine and the psychological research on how food advertising affects young people.

The paper was co-authored by Jennifer Harris, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, and Samantha Graff, JD, Director of Legal Research at the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity.

Vegetable Consumption Varies Among Preschool Children

Children’s vegetable consumption varies greatly day-to-day. Teachers, parents, and caregivers should continue to offer vegetables to children, with the understanding that rejection of vegetables may not indicate future rejection, according to a study recently published by Rudd Center researchers in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The authors found that repeated exposure to vegetables did not increase consumption among children in the preschool setting. However, the amount of vegetables a child consumed was associated with the average vegetable intake of other children at the table.

The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Meghan O’Connell, MPH, Research Associate; Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Director of School and Community Initiatives; Joerg Luedicke, MS, Biostatistician; and Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Edward M. Cooney, JD
Executive Director, Congressional Hunger Center

Mark Bomford
Director, Yale Sustainable Food Project

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS feed.

Kick the Can – Giving the Boot to Sugary Drinks, a home base for beverage advocacy campaigns, was recently launched by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. The website offers multiple ways to get involved, including playing the Kick the Can game and signing the petition calling on the beverage industry to stop their harmful marketing practices.

SNAP to Health Website Launched

The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health recently launched the website This website is a place for public discourse on strategies to promote health and prevent obesity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. SNAP provides food assistance to over 46 million Americans and is due to be reauthorized in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Front Burner News

Walmart Launches Food Label

Walmart is unveiling a food label that it says will help consumers make quick decisions about whether a food is healthy or not without having to spend time reading the nutrition label. Read more.

U.S. Obesity Rates Plateau

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has leveled off over the last decade, although rates of obesity in men and boys increased, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more.

Weight Language Guidelines Created

The Canadian Obesity Network is crafting guidelines to help doctors broach the subject of weight with more grace. The guidelines come after a study was published in the journal Obesity about stigma and the words providers use to describe weight with their patients. Read more.

Children Still Buying Unhealthy Foods at School

Unhealthy foods such as cookies, cakes, and chips are still being sold through school vending machines, cafeterias, and snack bars despite efforts to serve healthier meals, according to researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Read more.

Overweight Doctors and Discussions About Weight

Overweight doctors are less likely to bring up weight loss with their obese patients, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. Read more.

School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity

More elementary schools are offering whole grains and low-fat milk for lunch, but there has been no progress to cut back on foods that are high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium, such as pizza and deep-fried potatoes, according to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Bridging the Gap program. Read more.

Boston Website to Track Weight

The Boston Public Health Commission will launch a website this spring where residents can record their starting weight, set weight-loss goals, and track progress, in order to meet the mayor’s 1 million-pound weight-loss challenge. Read more.

Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

Competition is tougher than ever in the workplace, especially for those who are overweight and face weight discrimination, according to the Rudd Center’s Rebecca Puhl, PhD. Read more.

Fake Vending Machines Give Nutrition Advice


Intermountain Healthcare has installed a fake, talking vending machine at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah. The vending machine is filled with fake snacks and when students press its buttons, they receive health messages instead of junk food. Read more.


Effectiveness of a Soda Tax

Proponents of a soda tax say the levy could cut back on obesity and premature deaths, raise $13 billion a year, and save $17 billion in medical costs. Read more.


Misleading Nutrition Claims

Health claims on food packaging can be misleading, confusing, and redundant. Experts discuss five labels that can be ignored. Read more.

Being Mean Won't Solve Childhood Obesity

Anti-obesity ads that shame and stigmatize parents are ineffective and can actually make the problem worse, according to the Rudd Center’s Rebecca Puhl, PhD. It is important to improve children’s physical well-being, but not harm their psychological health. Read more.

Complex Environment Influences Childhood Obesity

For the fight against childhood obesity to be successful, the focus must be on the environment children live in, including families, the media, schools, and communities. Read more.

The Soul of Slow Food

Should Slow Food be a movement that meets the interests of those who are naturally drawn to the mission and who can afford to take part? Or, should it be a movement that meets the needs of those who are most dependent on it being successful and who are most vulnerable if the movement fails? Read more.


Effectiveness of Banning Food Ads

An outright ban covering the entire U.S. media market would be the most effective policy tool for reducing fast-food consumption in children, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Read more.

Ad Campaign Launched Against Cheese

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has launched a campaign aimed at raising awareness about the role of cheese in obesity. Read more.

Traffic Light-Style Labeling Could Encourage Healthier Choices

Color-coded labels indicating relative healthfulness of foods and beverages lead to a decrease of purchases of unhealthy products and an increase of healthy products, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health documenting purchasing behavior in a large hospital cafeteria. Read more.

Taco Bell Testing Fresh Food Menu

Taco Bell is testing its “Cantina Bell menu” in select markets. The new menu focuses on fresh ingredients and is being compared to menus of fast casual Mexican food chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill. Read more.

Guide for Parents Against Junk Food Ads

The Fat Free TV Guide website, launched by the Cancer Council in Australia, empowers parents against TV junk food ads with links for parents to share information and complain directly to the TV networks about advertising. Read more.

Kellogg’s Characters to Don Milk Mustache

Kellogg’s has partnered with the National Milk Mustache Got Milk? campaign to launch the first milk-mustache ad to emphasize the consumption of cereal and milk. Read more.

Many Skeptical of Health Claims

People across the world are skeptical of food manufacturers' health claims, according to an internet survey of more than 25,000 people by the Nielsen polling firm. More than three-quarters of people in 56 countries said they almost never believe the health claims on food labels. Read more.

General Mills Reinvents Food Packaging Using Digital Technology


General Mills is starting to investigate QR codes, apps, augmented reality, and other smartphone tools to help target children. Read more.