The Quotable Kelly Brownell

This article is republished from Yale News. For questions, please contact Yale News at or 203-432-1345.

During his long tenure at Yale, Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., has been an outspoken advocate in the fight against obesity and the factors that contribute to it. He has taken on the food industry, praised public health policies in places such as New York City and been critical of “stealth” food marketing practices. Brownell recently left his post as director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale (where he is also the James Rowland Angell Professor in the Department of Psychology and professor at the Yale School of Public Health) and will formally begin a deanship of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University on July 1. Brownell’s uncompromising work to promote better health will long be remembered at Yale, as will his way with words.

Here is a small, select sampling of Kelly Brownell in his own words spanning almost 20 years:

  • “We don’t abuse lettuce, turnips and oranges. But when a highly processed food is eaten, the body may go haywire. Nobody abuses corn as far as I know, but when you process it into Cheetos, what happens?” - The New York Times, September 20, 2013

  • “We've been completely retrained to think that large portions are acceptable, that eating throughout the day is acceptable, that eating late at night is acceptable, that eating in the car is acceptable. All the boundaries that would put limits around eating have been exploded.” - USA Today, August 1, 2012

  • “My boyhood included occasional sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)--in 6½-ounce bottles. The current default is triple that size--a 20-ounce bottle--with many sizes larger yet. McDonald's has a 32-ounce serving and Burger King has 42 ounces. KFC has a 64-ounce Mega Jug, and the large soda at Regal Movie Theaters is 54 ounces.” - The Atlantic, June 15, 2012

  • “America has set the trend, but every country in the world has increasing obesity.” - Yale Public Health magazine, Spring 2012

  • “Millions of people see thousands of products each day and deserve a labeling system that helps them understand nutrition information rather than misleads them.” - Yale News, January 25, 2011

  • “There is no longer doubt that children and teens need protection. Marketing of both brands and foods is relentless and the nation is paying a terrible price. The industry has had time to prove itself trustworthy, and government can look the other way only so long.” - The Atlantic, November 8, 2010

  • “A penny-per-ounce excise tax could reduce consumption of sugared beverages by more than 10%. It is difficult to imagine producing behavior change of this magnitude through education alone, even if government devoted massive resources to the task. In contrast, a sales tax on sugared drinks would generate considerable revenue, and as with the tax on tobacco, it could become a key tool in efforts to improve health.” - Perspective column in The New England Journal of Medicine, April 30, 2009

  • “The husband looked at the chicken and the wife said, “Guess what?” in words to this effect, “KFC is now free of trans fats.” And so, he lets out a yelp of glee and starts gorging on the chicken. …”  - Interview with Yale Environment 360, April 8, 2009 (in response to a question about a KFC advertisement)

  •  “Could you call it a chemical soup? Is it something that should be regulated not by the FDA but, say, by the EPA?” - From a videotaped lecture at the Obesity and Food Addiction Summit on the 56 ingredients, many of them chemical, found in Pop Tarts. April 24, 2009

  • “Similar to a virus without natural enemies, our lifestyle of abundant food and inactivity faces little opposition.” - From the opening chapter of Food Fight, a book he coauthored in 2004

  •  “Since the Government controls cigarette and alcohol advertising aimed at children, a similar rationale should apply to unhealthy foods. Children can’t make mature decisions in the face of clever commercials and should not be inundated with temptations to eat some of the most processed, calorie-rich, fat-laden food on the planet.” - New York Times Op-Ed, December 15, 1994 

This article was submitted by Denise L Meyer on April 18, 2013.