Today’s News Wrap focuses on nutrition research…and how it is translating to calls for change in public policy.


Opinion: Energy drinks are killing young people. It’s time to stop that.

Two University of California researchers have penned an op-ed urging changes in public policy to address the threat of caffeine in energy drinks, after the death of a teen last month from over-consumption of caffeine. The piece appears in the Washington Post and was co-authored by Pat Crawford and Wendi Gosliner, who are researchers at UC’s Nutrition Policy Institute (UC NPI), part of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division.


“The teen wasn’t the first to pay a terrible price for drinking popular beverages that are commonly (but mistakenly) considered safe, but he should be the last. The government must take steps to reduce caffeine levels allowed in energy drinks; to clearly provide recommendations on safe caffeine consumption for children and adolescents; to ban the marketing of energy drinks to young people of all ages; and to help educate the public on the health risks of high caffeine intake.”

As the op-ed notes, the problem is serious. Between 2005 and 2011, “energy drink-related emergency-room visits rose from 1,494 to 20,783.” Yet, there is currently no legal requirement to include information about caffeine content on product labels.


Meet the Op-Ed Co-Author Pat Crawford

Pat Crawford is an internationally-recognized nutrition researcher. To learn more, read this UC Food Observer Q&A with her. In it, she discusses childhood obesity. She told us this:

“Not changing is risky. The United States – along with Mexico – has the highest obesity rates in the industrialized world. With these extraordinarily high obesity rates, we are on a path toward ever-rising chronic disease rates including not just diabetes, but also heart disease and some cancers, increasing health care costs and reducing productivity.

Even more alarming, is a little known fact that 23 percent of the adolescents in this country currently have pre-diabetes or diabetes as measured by actual blood tests in our largest national study of health (NHANES). Something is seriously wrong in a society such as ours where so many children are growing up with such a high risk of preventable disease.” 

UC NPI’s Research and Work in #Foodwaste

Researchers at UC NPI work on a range of issues, from childhood obesity, to lead in drinking water and food waste (to name a few).

Wendi Gosliner recently wrote this UC Food Observer guest post about leveraging nutrition education programs to tackle food waste in California.

The researcher shared this about her work:

“I find the field of food and nutrition fascinating, because food presents an intersection of so many critical issues: human health, environmental health, culture and societal sustainability. The increasing amount of food waste in the United States and around the world is symptomatic of flaws in our food, economic and social systems. Thus, the solutions to this challenge will help alleviate many of humanity’s pressing challenges, including human hunger, environmental degradation, fair resource distribution and cultural sustainability. Additionally, food waste feels like a problem that people can understand and solve collectively if we put our minds to it.”

UC NPI Advocates for Nutrition Facts Labeling

From the UC NPI’s most recent newsletter:

More than 40 scientists and researchers from across the country, including Nutrition Policy Institute Director and UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Lorrene Ritchie, have called on Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to maintain the July 2018 compliance date for the updated Nutrition Facts label.

“Americans consume added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, in amounts that are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and nutrient-poor diets,” the scientists and researchers wrote to Price and Gottlieb. “The new Nutrition Facts labels would also tell consumers how much of a day’s worth of added sugars a serving of food contains.”

The updated label is important, they wrote, because it will better allow consumers to follow the advice of leading health authorities, including the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans: “Without those labels, consumers cannot follow advice from the government’s own Dietary Guidelines for Americans, American Heart Association, World Health Organization and other health authorities to cut back on added sugars.”


Editor’s Note: To stay abreast of the Institute’s cutting edge nutrition research – and how it is positively affecting public policy – follow UC NPI on Twitter. Read this related piece about youth activism at an upcoming obesity conference.