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Losing the Weight-Loss Battle

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Here’s one thing we know: The weight-loss products industry is booming.

Here’s one thing we don’t know: How to actually lose weight. According the latest industry snapshot from CPG research firm Packaged Facts, Americans spent $26 billion on weight-loss and weight management products last year — yet the prevalence of obesity in this country over the past ten years increased 48% amongst adults, and 72% amongst children. It’s projected that by the year 2018 obesity-related medical expenses will more than triple from their current rate.

scale.jpgYou can’t blame people for not trying. The report states that 39% of adults are working to lose or maintain weight. Nearly three fourths of sales go to diet foods and drinks, while 18% goes to weight loss programs and services like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. The bottom 10% belongs to over-the-counter drugs, therapies and (shudder) surgical intervention.

So who’s to blame here, the products or the consumer? Perhaps both. People want their diets to be quick and easy, and companies help them maintain that illusion. There was the carb craze, for one, and now there’s something called the “cookie diet”. Ask any dietitian or nutritionist worth her salt, and she’ll tell you losing weight is hard work, requiring a combination of exercise, planning, and smaller, more wholesome portions.

Nevertheless, we soldier on. The latest trend nowadays, according to the Packaged Facts report, is with food and drinks promoting satiety. These items are supposed to give consumers a feeling of fullness, keeping them from the cravings that cause them to raid the pantry.

More promising is the prospect of federal support. The Obama administration, as we wrote on here recently, just launched its Let’s Move campaign to tackle childhood obesity. This fall, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will release updated Dietary Guidelines, including a brand spanking new food pyramid. And the Food and Drug Administration, in addition to cracking down on label claims, has said it will re-examine serving sizes so that they more accurately reflect products’ nutritional profile.

(Creative Commons photo courtesy of alancleaver 2000)

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