November 2014 Digest Archive

Rudd Center Releases Sugary Drink FACTS 2014

Beverage companies spent $866 million to advertise unhealthy drinks in 2013, and children and teens remained key target audiences for that advertising, according to a new report released today by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The report, Sugary Drink FACTS 2014, highlights some progress in beverage marketing to young people, but also shows that companies still have a long way to go to improve their marketing practices and the nutritional quality of their products.  

While the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) regulates advertising placed in TV and other media where 35% or more of the audience is made up of children aged 11 and under, this report measures total exposure to TV advertising for sugary drinks by preschoolers (2-5), children (6-11) and teenagers (12-17), as well as other forms of marketing they encounter.

"Despite promises by major beverage companies to be part of the solution in addressing childhood obesity, our report shows that companies continue to market their unhealthy products directly to children and teens," said Jennifer Harris, PhD, Yale Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives and lead author of the report. "They have also rapidly expanded marketing in social and mobile media that are popular with young people, but much more difficult for parents to monitor."

Sugary Drink FACTS 2014, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, updates a 2011 report on the same topic. Using the same methods, researchers examined changes in the nutritional content of sugar-sweetened drinks including sodas, fruit drinks, flavored waters, sports drinks, iced teas, as well as zero-calorie energy drinks and shots. They also analyzed marketing tactics for 23 companies that advertised these products, including the amount spent to advertise in all media; child and teen exposure to advertising and brand appearances on TV and visits to beverage company websites, including differences for black and Hispanic youth; advertising on websites popular with children and teens; and marketing in newer media like mobile apps and social media. Researchers also examined changes in advertising of diet beverages, 100% juice, and water.

The authors assert that their analysis points out several shortcomings of the CFBAI.

"Industry self-regulation only limits advertising on a fraction of the TV shows and websites that youth see, and classifies children as adults the day they turn 12 years old," said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Director of the Rudd Center. "Our children deserve to grow up in a culture where they are exposed to messages that promote health, not sugar and caffeine.”

The authors recommend that companies who market sugary drinks to children should stop doing so, and make an effort to develop drinks with no artificial sweeteners that contain fewer than 40 calories. Parents should read labels carefully, even if a label says the drink is healthy. And finally, policy makers should focus their attention on labeling that includes calories, added sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Dr. Harris presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.  More detailed findings of the report can be found here

The report garnered significant attention from the media, industry, and policy makers. The report’s website,, contains links to the full report, report summary, a video, and tools for consumers and researchers.  

Berkeley Passes the first U.S. Soda Tax 

Berkeley has become the nation's first city to pass a soda tax. With a majority required for passage, more than three-quarters of the votes supported placing a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks in an effort to reduce consumption and combat diet-related diseases like diabetes and obesity. The tax will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

"The passing of Measure D shows how committed the city and citizens of Berkeley are to health and nutrition," said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director. "Research shows that soda and other sugary drinks are the number one single source of sugar in the American diet and contribute to diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes. By passing Measure D, the Berkeley community is raising awareness about the link between sugary drinks and these diseases, raising revenue for community programs, and reducing consumption of these harmful drinks. This is an important development that will pave the way for similar policies across the country."

In San Francisco, the soda tax measure fell short of the two-thirds majority of votes required for passage, but surpassed many polling expectations.

Both ballot measures prompted massive spending by the beverage industry. The opposition, funded mostly by the American Beverage Association, spent more than $9 million in San Francisco and more than $2 million in Berkeley to fight the measures.

"The amount of money the industry spent to fight the Berkeley and San Francisco initiatives shows the world the extreme measures it will take to combat any attempt at making the price of sugary beverages more accurately reflect their true cost to society,” said Schwartz. Through these initiatives, public health advocates have made significant gains in raising awareness about the harms of sugary beverages. We will continue to work hard to ensure that all communities have the opportunity to be healthy and will continue to urge municipalities, states, and the federal government to adopt policies to better protect and improve the public’s health.”

The idea of taxing nutritionally poor foods and beverages was first introduced in 1994 by the Rudd Center’s former Director, Kelly Brownell, PhD, who published a New York Times op-ed about the issue entitled "Get Slim With Higher Taxes.

The Rudd Center’s Revenue Calculator for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes produces expected revenue by state, city, tax per ounce, and type of beverage.  

Rudd Center’s Director Awarded Sarah E. Samuels Award  

Rudd Center’s Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, was awarded the 2014 American Public Health Association, Food & Nutrition Section's Sarah Samuels Award

The award honors the memory of Sarah Samuels, who dedicated her life and career to improving the public’s health and was passionate about mentoring young public health professionals.

Dr. Samuels was a pioneer in the field of nutrition and physical activity research and evaluation, and a tireless crusader for improving the public’s health. She influenced public health thought and practice through her mentorship, participation on advisory boards, and numerous presentations and publications. She was a collaborator, visionary, and original thinker.

Dr. Schwartz was presented the award during the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  

Rudd Center’s Deputy Director Delivers ObesityWeek’s Integrated Health Keynote  

Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, was the Integrated Health Keynote Speaker for ObesityWeek, an international event focused on the basic science, clinical application, prevention of, and surgical intervention on obesity.

Hosted by The Obesity Society and The American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, ObesityWeek brought together world-renowned experts in obesity to share the latest innovations and breakthroughs in science.

In her keynote address, Puhl spoke about how weight bias interferes with efforts to effectively address obesity. Negative attitudes about excess body weight are rarely challenged and have become so socially acceptable that even healthcare providers are not immune to them, asserted Puhl. She challenged providers to examine how their implicit biases may affect how they communicate and interact with patients.  

New Web Resources  

Kick the Can

Kick the Can is a resource for advocates working to limit sugary drink consumption in their communities. Kick the Can provides users with tools and information to start a movement in their community.

Why Weight? A Guide to Discussing Obesity & Health With Your Patients

Produced by The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, this tool equips physicians with skills for building a safe, trusting environment with patients and facilitating productive conversations about weight.


Created by Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, SugarScience is an authoritative source for the scientific evidence on sugar's impact on health. The goal of SugarScience is to make this information available to the lay public, and to help individuals and communities make healthy choices. 

Salud Heros!

Salud America! has recently released six new videos of Salud Heroes who have worked hard to reduce sugary drink consumption and increase healthier marketing among Latino kids.


Just Published by the Rudd Center

Americans Support Anti-Bullying Laws that Address Physical Appearance and Weight  

Despite significant physical, emotional, social, and academic consequences of bullying among youth, there are no federal laws that currently prohibit bullying in schools, and the comprehensiveness of anti-bullying laws varies considerably from state to state.

However, there is considerable support among American adults for comprehensive anti-bullying laws at both the state and federal level, according to a study led by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The study is published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

Only eighteen states have passed anti-bullying laws that identify distinguishing characteristics that apply to students who may me more vulnerable to bullying because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

The Rudd Center’s study is the first to examine public attitudes toward different types of state anti-bullying laws. These laws vary according to whether or not they enumerate distinguishing characteristics. Body weight as a characteristic is absent in most laws.

Researchers surveyed over 1,000 U.S. adults to assess their support for different types of state anti-bullying laws with particular attention to whether or not "body weight" should be included or omitted as a distinguishing characteristic.

Approximately 2/3 of respondents support anti-bullying laws that enumerate distinguishing characteristics, and respondents were generally likely to support laws that include wording on physical appearance or body weight in addition to other characteristics that are typically listed.

"Given the high prevalence of weight-based bullying in youth and the lack of existing measures to protect this vulnerable population, more comprehensive anti-bullying statutes that address ‘physical appearance’ or ‘body weight’ seems warranted," said lead author and Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD. "Our findings suggest that there is little justification to exclude body weight or physical appearance from anti-bullying statutes."

The authors assert that this study will inform the ongoing political and legal discourse about anti-bullying statutes, and encourage the addition of language to protect youth who are bullied because of their weight.  

Co-authors include Joerg Luedicke, a Senior Scientist at StataCorp, and Kelly King, Student at Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University.

Obesity among American Workers Costs the Nations Billions in Lost Productivity  

Obesity is associated with significant increases in absenteeism among American workers and costs the nation over $8 billion per year in lost productivity, according to a study recently published by the Rudd Center. The study suggests that the health consequences of obesity negatively impact the workforce, and in turn create a significant financial challenge for the nation as well as individual states.

Published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the study is the first of its kind to provide state-level estimates of the obesity-attributable costs of absenteeism among working adults in the United States.

The researchers used nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance to calculate the estimates.

Obesity-attributable absenteeism costs ranged across states from $14.4 million (Wyoming) to $907 million (California) per year. Overall, the total national loss in productivity was estimated to be $8.65 billion per year, which is 9.3% of all absenteeism costs.

Previous research shows that obesity-related illnesses incur considerable costs, but this new study indicates even greater costs to society because of higher production and a less competitive workforce.

"Understanding all economic costs of obesity, including lost productivity, is critical for policymakers working on obesity prevention at any level,” notes lead author, Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, the Rudd Center’s Director of Economic Initiatives. "Quantifying not just obesity-related health care costs but also economic costs is essential for informed decision making."

Co-authors include Joerg Luedicke, a senior scientist at StataCorp, and Y. Claire Wang, Assistant Professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.