Weight loss market to reach $58 Billion
The latest figures from Marketdata, Inc., which analyses ten major segments of the U.S. diet industry, put the current annual total at $58 billion spent on weight-loss products and services. In a 393-page study entitled: “The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market (9th edition),” Marketdata projects 6 percent annual growth for the total U.S. weight loss market, to $68.7 billion by 2010, followed thereafter by lower overall growth.

The analysis includes ten major segments of the U.S. diet industry: diet drugs, diet books and exercise videos, diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, diet dinner entrees and meal replacements, health clubs, diet websites, commercial chains, hospital, RD and MD-based programs, kid’s weight loss camps and bariatric surgeries. Of these, diet soft drinks gets the largest share at 29.5 percent and was worth $19 billion in 2006. Bariatric surgeries reached record levels with a total of 177,000 in 2006, representing a $4.4 billion market. Prescription diet drugs claimed $459 million of the 2006 market. Among diet companies, market leaders are Weight Watchers ($1.2 bill.), NutriSystem ($568 mill.), LA Weight Loss ($500 mill.), Jenny Craig ($462 mill.), Slim-Fast ($310 mill.) and Herbalife ($271 mill). (Tampa FL PRWEB, April 19, 2007; LaRosa J. U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market, Marketdata Enterprises.)

YRBS reports kids’ weight
Nationwide, 13.1 percent of U.S. high school students grades 9-12 reported being overweight in the latest Youth Risk Behavior survey (YRBS), conducted during October 2004 – January 2006; 15.7 percent were at risk for becoming overweight. Students with a BMI of the 95 th percentile and above are defined as overweight, or with a BMI of 85 th up to 95 th percentile as at risk.

Overall, the prevalence of overweight was higher among male than female students (16 vs 10 percent), and higher among white and Hispanic males than white and Hispanic females (15.2, 21.3, 8.2, 12.1 percent, respectively). Overall, the prevalence of overweight was higher among black and Hispanic than white students (16, 16.8, and 11.8 percent, respectively); higher among black female than Hispanic female and white female students (16.1, 12.1, and 8.2 percent) and higher among Hispanic male than white male and black male students (21.3, 15.9 and 15.2 percent).

Nationwide, 45.6 percent of students were trying to lose weight – 61.7 percent of females compared with 30 percent of male students. To lose or keep from gaining weight in the 30 days before the survey, 40 percent of all students ate less food, fewer calories or foods low in fat; 60 percent exercised; 12.3 percent fasted for 24 hours or more (17 percent of females compared with 7.6 percent of males); 6.3 percent took diet pills, powders or liquids without a doctor’s advice (highest rate was in white females at 9.2 percent); and 4.5 percent had vomited or taken laxatives (highest for white and Hispanic females at 6.8 percent).

The YRBS is a self-reported survey that monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors among high school youth and young adults, and includes general health status, unhealthy dietary behaviors, physical inactivity and the prevalence of overweight. In the US, 71 percent of all deaths among persons age 10 to 24 result from four causes: motor-vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide. The 2005 survey showed that during the 30 days preceding the survey, many high school students engaged in behaviors that increased their likelihood of death from these four causes. (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – US 2005. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report DHHS, CDCP 6/9/2006.)

Children are snacking more
Children are snacking more today than 25 years ago. Researchers at the University of North Carolina compared information from three national surveys 1977 through 1996, and found that, while the average size of snacks and calories per snack remain relatively constant, the number of times kids eat between meals has increased. The snacks provided less calcium than regular meals and were higher in calories and fat. Thus the “energy density” of what children eat over the course of a day has risen significantly, from 1.35 to 1.54 calories per gram. Children today take in about 25 percent of their calories in snacks (600 calories), compared with about 18 percent (450 calories) in the late 1970s. Snacks are important in keeping children’s energy levels high, said the researchers, but the kinds of snacks kids are eating can be a problem. They note that the biggest changes in snacking patterns have occurred during the past decade and include increased consumption of soft drinks, chips and salty snacks, and decreases in fruit, vegetables and milk. (Williamson D, School of Public Health scientists find US children snack more now. News release 4/6/2001. Contact: am_seigariz@unc.edu, or lisa_jahns@unc.edu.)

Life expectancy rises with population
Population in the U.S. reached 300 million on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and along with this population increase comes an even more dramatic rise in average life expectancy, now just a few months short of 78.

In 1915 when the U.S. population reached 100 million, the average lifespan was 54 years. When that doubled to 200 million in 1967, life expectancy was around 70.

“Life expectancy worldwide has been rising pretty steadily since 1840, at a rate of about two years per decade,” says Daniel Perry, executive director of the Alliance for Aging Research. “In 1840, the longest-living people in the world were women in Sweden, and they lived an average of 45 years.”

During the first half of the 20 th century revolutionary advances in medicine and public health were responsible for raising the average life expectancy in the U.S. by more than 20 years – from age 47 in 1900 to age 68 in 1950. In 1900 infant mortality, infectious disease, pandemics and war were the big killers, experts say.

The big killers today are chronic diseases of aging like heart disease and cancer. But in the last 25 years, deaths from stroke and heart attacks have dropped by almost 50 percent. Cancer deaths are also declining. Dramatic reductions in infant mortality and easier access to emergency care have also helped increase life expectancy.

Some experts on aging say that within 50 years, the average person living in an industrialized nation with good access to health care will live to be at least 100.

“Some people have lived as long as 120 years, so we know that this is possible for our species,” Perry says. “Older people today are able to remain functionally independent much longer than in the past.” There is also some clinical evidence that older people today are happier, healthier, and functioning better than their parents or grandparents. (Boyles S. Americans living longer than ever. WebMD Medical News 10/17/2006)

Mauritius islanders gain weight
Alarming increases in diabetes, and one of the world’s highest coronary heart disease mortality rates, fuel concerns over the rise in obesity in the rapidly developing island nation of Mauritius.

East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has pursued an intensive health promotion program advocating healthy diet and exercise. 
Yet in the five years between 1987 and 1992, over weight on the island has increased from 26 to 36 percent in men and 38 to 48 percent in women (BMI of 25 or more). Obesity (BMI of 30 or more) increased from 3 to 5 percent for men and 10 to 15 percent for women. Abdominal obesity increased from 14 to 20 percent in men and from 14 to 21 percent in women.

Prevalence varies among the three main ethnic/racial groups. Creoles, of African heritage, have the highest rates of obesity (8 percent for men and 20 percent for women); Indians intermediate; and Chinese the lowest (2 percent for men and 6 percent for women). Abdominal obesity is greatest in Indian men and Creole women. 
That women gained more than men may be due to lower physical activity and weight gain in pregnancy, say the researchers. Lower income women gained more weight. Smoking cessation was a factor for weight gain in men, but not women, as few smoke. 
Younger, leaner adults gained more than older adults. The researchers conclude that younger, slimmer, lower income islanders are at most risk for continued weight gain. (Healthy Weight Journal 1997:11:6;106 / Hodge AM, et al. Increasing obesity in Mauritius. I J Obesity 1996;20:137-146.)

More kids are overweight
Statistics from CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show more American children are overweight, continuing the steep increase documented over the last two decades. The initial results for 1999 show 13 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, up from 11 percent in the previous NHANES III survey conducted from 1988 to 1994. The number of overweight teens ages 12 to 19 increased to 14 from 11 percent in the same time period. Using the same definition (at or above the 95th percentile of sex-specific BMI growth charts) it is apparent that overweight was relatively stable from the 1960’s (at 5 percent) to 1980, but by NHANES III had doubled for both children and teens to 11 percent. Because the 1999 sample size is smaller than for the multiyear surveys, additional data from further annual surveys are needed to confirm these findings. NHANES reaches a representative sample of the U.S. population through mobile examination centers, and is the nation’s most extensive health and nutrition survey. ( National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Press release 3/12/2001.)

Obesity doubles in England
Obesity has doubled in England between 1980 and 1991 (at the BMI level of over 30). Yet at the same time calorie intake has declined markedly over the past 25 years, as has percent of fat in the diet, after peaking in the 1970s. This information comes from several sources: the annual National Food Survey and cross-sectional studies of various groups of adults and children. 

The paradox of increasing obesity at a time of decreasing fat and food intake can only be explained by an even faster decline in activity, says Andrew Prentice, of the MRC Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre in Cambridge, UK. He notes that in a recent fitness survey, 30% of adults recorded fewer than four 20-minute periods of moderate activity in the previous month and 50 to 60% had not participated in any moderately vigorous sport. Motorized transport, central heating, labor-saving household appliances and inactive pastimes peaked in the late 1970s and remain high.

Prentice says there is good evidence that physical inactivity interacts with diet — especially high fat diets — to undermine the mechanisms that normally regulate balance. (Prentice A., Food and nutrient intake and obesity. In Progress in Obesity Research:7, A. Angel et al, 1996;451- 457, John Libbey & Co. London, England.)

Obesity up for German kids
Between 1975 and 1995 in the German town of Jena, overweight increased from 10.0 to 16.3 percent in boys and 11.7 to 20.7 percent in girls, while obesity increased from 5.3 to 8.2 percent in boys and 4.7 to 9.9 percent in girls. The peak in this increase came during the last 10 years of that time. The heavier children were more likely to have a higher birth weight and length, and lower socioeconomic status of parents. The survey used the criteria developed for French children. (Kromeyer-Hauschild K, Zellner K, Jaeger U, Hoyer H. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among school children in Jena. Int J Obes 1999;23:1143-1150)

Ominous trends
Emerging American foodway trends are moving toward cheaper food, eating fast and eating alone, says nutritionist Margaret Reinhardt, Minneapolis. 

Ominous road-signs she sees are: 

  • Fewer family meals and foods eaten together 
  • Fast, hot convenience foods moving into gas stations 
  • Decline to below 10% in household budget spent on food 
  • More all-you-can-eat and super-size servings at restaurants and 
    take-out 
  • Over half of fast food goes out drive-thru windows 
  • More food sold in single-serve packs means not sharing meal
  • Liter of Coke costs less than half-gallon of milk

Nutrition and health leaders must be prepared to acknowledge the desire to eat this way, and to temper it with wise and sensitive counseling, while supporting and encouraging the best eating habits of various cultures, Reinhardt advises. ( Reinhardt M. American Foodways. SNE Communicator, Fall 1997)

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