September 2014 Digest Archive

Rudd Center Joins the University of Connecticut

Rudd Center Staff
The Rudd Center, its faculty, and staff will to move to the University of Connecticut (UConn) in January 2015. It is one of the first major initiatives of UConn’s new Academic Vision, which prioritizes health, wellness, and obesity prevention research as an integral part of the University’s mission.

The collaboration was announced on Friday, September 12, during a ceremony at Goodwin Elementary School in East Hartford, CT that emphasized the important role research plays in preventing obesity and improving the health of young people.

"The Rudd Center has developed an outstanding national and international reputation for sound science and strategic policy advocacy," said Mun Choi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut. "We are thrilled to have the Rudd Center join UConn as we build a growing record of excellence at our institution."

Recently ranked by Philanthropedia as one of the nation’s most effective nonprofits working on nutrition policy, the Rudd Center is a leader in conducting cutting edge research to inform pressing public policy issues. Its work is widely used by policy makers and health advocates.

"We are excited to join UConn and the community of world-class researchers whose work is relevant to childhood obesity and weight stigma," said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center's Director. "By joining UConn during this monumental time of growth, the Rudd Center will remain a leader in addressing how home environments, school landscapes, neighborhoods, and the media shape the eating attitudes and behaviors of children."

The move will allow Rudd Center researchers to expand their work and build new collaborations with UConn experts on nutrition, public policy, psychology, agriculture, economics, and obesity – many of whom are located within the University’s Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), where the Rudd Center will be situated.

CHIP, which is led by Jeffrey Fisher, PhD, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Psychology, has received more than $100 million in external funding to support its health-related research, and has a proven track record of fostering interdisciplinary collaborations between many of these research areas. Its Obesity Research Group boasts 130 members from more than 20 UConn departments and multiple campuses.

Pictured above: Rudd Center faculty and staff celebrate a future expansion and collaboration with CHIP at UConn at a press event in the community garden at Goodwin Elementary School.

Parents Support Healthier School Lunch 

The vast majority of parents of school-aged children support strong nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during school, according to a new poll by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association.

The findings come as school districts across the country implement the "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, which set limits on the fat, salt, and calories in foods and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, and on a la carte cafeteria lines.

The nationally representative poll assessed parents’ opinions of nutrition standards for both school meals, and snack foods and beverages, sold to students. Researchers found that 72 percent favor national standards for school meals. In addition, 72 percent support standards for school snacks.

The majority of parents are concerned with the state of children’s health and childhood obesity, and support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal, assert the authors.

Previous research has shown that both student health and school food service revenue can benefit from selling healthier snack foods and beverages.  

America’s State of Obesity

Adult obesity rates have increased in six states and have not decreased in any, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, a report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The report also found that more than 20 states have obesity rates topping one-third of their population.

The six states whose rates increased in the last year are Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Mississippi and West Virginia were tied for the most obese state, with rates at more than 35 percent. The least obese state is Colorado (21.3) percent, but its rate is still high compared to 30 years ago when no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent, asserts Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH.

The 20 states with obesity rates of 30 percent or more are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

Findings reveal that significant geographic, income, racial, and ethnic disparities persist, with obesity rates highest in the south and among Blacks, Latinos and lower-income, less-educated Americans. The report also found that more than one in ten children become obese as early as ages 2 to 5.

"Obesity in America is at a critical juncture. Obesity rates are unacceptably high, and the disparities in rates are profoundly troubling," according to Levi, PhD. "We need to intensify prevention efforts starting in early childhood, and do a better job of implementing effective policies and programs in all communities – so every American has the greatest opportunity to have a healthy weight and live a healthy life."

The State of Obesity report (formerly known as F as in Fat) is the 11th annual report produced by TFAH and RWJF.  

Health Organizations Call for Ban on Fat-Shaming Apps 

Smart Phone

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), along with other organizations including the Rudd Center, have issued formal letters to the leaders of, Apple Inc., Google Inc., and the Microsoft Corporation, calling on them to remove from their online app stores those applications that shame people who are overweight or obese and to strengthen their review process to ensure no further fat-shaming apps are approved for download.

Apps such as, “Fatify,” “Fatbooth,” and "Fat You” greatly perpetuate fat-shaming and weight bias, according to OAC.

"Along with serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and more, obesity carries the burden of being the last acceptable form of discrimination in today’s society," assert the authors.

"You would never see an app target other diseases such as cancer, anorexia or HIV; therefore, obesity should be treated with the same consideration," according to Joe Nadglowski, OAC President and CEO.

In addition to distributing letters, OAC has created a petition to support the removal of these apps and stronger app approval guidelines.

Teens’ Neural Response to Food Commercials Predicts Future Weight Gain

Children and adolescents see thousands of food commercials each year, most of them for junk foods high in sugar, fat, and salt. Yet researchers know almost nothing about how food marketing impacts the brain, especially for teens. New research published in the journal Obesity suggests that food commercials "get under the skin" of teens by activating reward regions when they are viewing ads for milk shakes, or burgers, or colas. The bad news is that this can result in weight gain and obesity, assert the authors.

In the first prospective longitudinal study to investigate neural response to unhealthy food commercials, Oregon Research Institute (ORI) scientists, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Michigan, the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity and Duke University, used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 30 adolescents (14-17 years old) while they watched the television show "Mythbusters." The show included 20 food commercials and 20 non-food commercials that are frequently advertised to adolescents.

The researchers found that adolescents showing elevated responses to food commercials in reward regions gained more weight in one year compared to those with less activation in those brain regions. The magnitude of these effects is much larger than the effects of established risk factors for future weight gain, such as parental obesity.

Authors include Sonja Yokum, PhD, Associate Scientist, Oregon Research Institute; Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan; Jennifer Harris, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives; Kelly Brownell, PhD, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University; and Eric Stice, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Oregon Research Institute.

Food Day 2014

Food Day, a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, will be held on October 24, 2014. Justice throughout the food chain - from farm workers to child consumers - will be the focus of the fourth annual event, as will increasing Amercan's access to healthy food.

Conceived of by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2011, the annual Food Day aims to encourage Americans to change their diets and work toward changing our nation’s food policies. Thousands of events will be held throughout the country to bring American's together to celebrate real food.

Rudd Center Study Selected as Nutrition Society’s Paper of the Month 

The Rudd Center's Director of Economic Initiatives, Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, recently published a paper in Public Health Nutrition which has been selected as the Nutrition Society’s Paper of the Month

The study, "Incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children," found that efforts to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables among women and young children receiving food assistance are paying off.

Andreyeva’s study is the first to measure the success of the new fruit and vegetable benefits in incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among WIC participants.