Welcome to Research to Action, the UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute news brief. This issue focuses on medical and dental professionals' collaboration to reduce children's consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Research to Action - The Nutrition Policy Institute news brief

September 2017 | Vol. 1, No. 3



Welcome to Research to Action, the Nutrition Policy Institute news brief. This issue highlights ways that oral health and medical providers can partner to reduce children's consumption of a shared enemy that leads to both obesity and dental caries: sugar-sweetened beverages.

Future editions of Research to Action will be sent several times per year. Please share Research to Action with colleagues who would be interested in receiving it, and please subscribe if you haven't already done so.

Medical and dental providers join forces to limit children’s consumption of sugar sweetened beverages

drinking water

The problem

Children’s doctors and dentists have a shared enemy: sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) — widely consumed beverages with little or no nutritive value. Obesity and cavities are the two most common health problems among children in the U.S., and the current high rate of intake of SSBs, including sodas, energy drinks and juice drinks, is a major cause of both conditions. Currently, SSBs are the top source of sugar in the American diet and are actually the largest single source of calories in teenagers’ diets.

Dental caries, obesity and overweight affect millions of children and particularly impact the most vulnerable: children of color and low-income children. And while the obesity epidemic in our youngest children has begun to level off, prevalence remains high in all groups of children at a rate 2- to 3-fold higher than it was 40 years ago. Furthermore, childhood tooth decay and obesity both contribute to health problems that persist into adulthood.

Despite their common dietary cause, childhood tooth decay and obesity have rarely benefited from a shared public health response. Oral health care providers worry about cavities, and physicians worry about obesity. The potential benefits of collaboration between the two groups of professionals have been largely unexplored and unrealized. Fortunately, that is changing.

The potential solution: shared strategies

To establish communication, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation brought key obesity prevention and dental health leaders together on November 3–4, 2016, at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Papers presented at The Healthy Futures: Engaging the Oral Health Community in Childhood Obesity Prevention National Conference were later published in a supplement to the Summer 2017 issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry

The Nutrition Policy Institute, a longtime leader in obesity prevention research, as well as SSB research, attended the meeting, collaborated with dental and medical professionals on a publication and is working to support further professional collaboration.

NPI proposes the following five strategies as a way to work together:
  • Support strong policies that help children to drink water, not SSBs
    • Keep SSBs out of schools, childcare homes and centers, and other places where children are likely to be
    • Remove SSBs from parks and recreation centers and other public places
    • Increase access to water stations and other free water sources so that safe, fluoridated tap water is available to all children
    • Support and participate in strong nutrition education programs to teach children the benefits of drinking water and the risks of drinking SSBs
  • Active engagement by medical and oral health professional societies in endorsing and adopting policies like those above
  • Include instruction on good beverage habits in professional education
  • Provide clear, consistent and actionable advice to patients on healthy beverage behavior
  • Make beverage-consumption questions a regular part of every patient visit and examination
A coordinated message on the negative effects of SSB consumption, delivered to children and their families by both dental and medical providers, is more likely to be effective than a single voice. Similarly, joint efforts to support community-based changes in schools and other institutions that make it easier for families to limit SSB consumption will lead to a healthier population and a reduction in future health care expenditures.


  • Dooley D, Moultrie N, Sites E, Crawford P. Primary care interventions to reduce childhood obesity and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption: Food for thought for oral health professionals:  Abstract  Full Text
  • Abrams B, Coyle J, Cohen A, Headen I, Hubbard A, Ritchie L, Rehkopf D. Impact of Preventing Excessive Gestational Weight Gain on Maternal Obesity at Age 40 Years: An Analysis of a Nationally Representative Sample:  Abstract 
  • Frongillo EA, Fawcett SB, Ritchie LD, Arteaga S, Loria CM, Pate RR, John LV, Strauss WJ, Gregoriou M, Collie-Akers VL, Schultz JA, Landgraf AJ, Nagaraja J. Community policies and programs to prevent obesity and child adiposity:  Abstract
  • Madsen K, Linchey J, Ritchie L, Thompson H. The Fit Study: Design and rationale for a cluster randomized trial of school-based BMI screening and reporting:  Abstract
  • Grodsky D, Violante A, Barrows A, Gosliner W. Using Behavioral Science to Improve the WIC Experience: Lessons for the field from San Jose, California:  Full Text


The Department of Health and Human Service's Healthy People team is requesting comments on the proposed Healthy People 2030 vision, mission, foundational principles, plan of action, and goals. Individuals and organizations are invited to submit comments on the proposed Healthy People 2030 framework by September 29, 2017.


September 13, 2017
Is Sugar Making Us Sick?
David Brower Center
Berkeley, CA

October 25, 2017
Hungry for Change: Food Insecurity, Stress, and Obesity
Grand Ballroom, Ackerman Union
Los Angeles, CA


Fiat Lux / Washington Post 
Energy drinks are killing young people. It's time to stop that.

Big Hunger Blog
Dignity and Wasted Food

National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research
Healthy Communities Study findings on relationship between community policies and programs and childhood obesity


Watch UC ANR VP Glenda Humiston speak about challenges and opportunities for technology in agriculture and the food system at the Forbes AgTech Summit.

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The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) conducts research on the impact of nutrition and physical activity on public health. NPI translates research findings into recommendations to provide a basis for effective decision-making, particularly related to the federal nutrition assistance programs.

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