Are Americans more obsessed with weight loss than other cultures? Well, maybe we should be. The obesity statistics are scary. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the United States obesity prevalence was 41.9 percent in 2017—March 2020. From 1999—2000 through 2017—March 2020, the U.S. obesity prevalence increased from 30.5 percent to 41.9 percent. During that same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent.
Childhood obesity is also a serious problem in the U.S. Children and adolescents who are obese are at extreme risk for poor health. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) National Center for Health Statistics, in 2017-2020, children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in 2017-2020:
• The prevalence of obesity was 19.7 percent and affected about 14.7 million children and adolescents.
• Obesity prevalence was 12.7 percent among 2- to 5-year-olds, 20.7 percent among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 22.2 percent among 12- to 19-year-olds.
In fact, a Stanford University School of Medicine study showed that having obese parents is the factor that most increases the likelihood of childhood obesity.
Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but one of the most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain is responsible for more than 300,000 deaths each year. The annual cost to society for obesity is estimated at nearly $100 billion.
In the U.S., there are “support” programs like app-based Noom, Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. There are mail order programs like Nutrisystem. There are weight-loss drugs, weight-loss shakes, weight-loss bars and even weight-loss surgery. Americans want quick fixes, but the results are painfully obvious—a culture that has still not figured out a long-term solution to weight management.
Can the natural products industry have an impact? Can a long-term approach be implemented to consume nutritious food and supplements that ultimately create permanent results? Natural products companies must work to educate and create efficacious products that make changes to body composition and metabolism that increase the body’s ability to burn calories. And these changes do not depend on a large reduction in the calories consumed. The changes depend on adjustments made to the foods eaten and the addition of certain supplements to the diet.
The result will be a decrease in fatty tissue and an increase in the ratio of lean muscle tissue to adipose (fat) tissue in the body. And an increase in lean tissue not only burns calories, but also gives women their shapely figures and men their muscle tone. In any successful weight-loss regimen, you will be able to judge yourself by how you look in the mirror and how your clothes fit rather than by how much you weigh.
When people think about foods that promote weight loss, the thinking goes back to low-calorie foods. Well, it is much more than that. And one of the keys to losing weight or maintaining an ideal weight is including fiber in the diet. While not a magic bullet, fiber significantly helps with satiety. And this makes perfect sense. One of the key weight control challenges is to control hunger. Appetite is affected by many things, including when you eat and the composition of meals—the amount of fats, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and water. Consuming healthy high-fiber foods makes you feel full. There are a wide range of great high-fiber natural products in health food stores nationwide. Just the other day I sampled a 100 percent natural high-fiber ice cream that was low in fat, sugar and calories and had 15 grams of protein to boot. Unbelievable!
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are directly responsible for the obesity epidemic in the U.S. The problem with sugars and refined foods is that they are so addictive and exist in a wide range of processed foods. And processed foods are all around us. While there are plenty of reasons to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, is it realistic to think we can eliminate them from our diet? Natural products companies and retailers must educate people about nutritious foods and the information that is presented on food labels. And this is easier said than done. Sugars alone are too numerous to list here. Naturalbias.com provides a great list of sugars to avoid here: http://naturalbias.com/types-of-sugar-by-name/.
Strategically incorporating dietary supplements into your weight-management and exercise routine can also yield some beneficial results. The following are a few recommendations:
Pure Green Coffee Bean Extract has generated significant buzz for its ability to improve energy levels, fat metabolism and weight loss. Researchers have discovered that unroasted green coffee beans possess a natural polyphenolic antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, which is related to chlorophyll. Chlorogenic acid inhibits the release of glucose into the bloodstream. The presence of chlorogenic acid in the body triggers the body to convert stored fat in the body into energy, rather than using glucose in the liver to create energy. This essentially melts the fat off the body while increasing metabolism and lowering blood pressure. And studies show efficacy!
In fact, according to a recent study on green coffee bean published in the Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity Journal, a group of 16 adults supplemented with green coffee bean for only 12 weeks. Over the course of the study, the subjects lost an average of 17 pounds each. This was 10.5 percent of their overall body weight and 16 percent of their overall body fat! These results are very compelling and could be an effective weapon against the obesity epidemic moving forward. Dietary supplement companies have been quick to develop green coffee bean supplements and natural products retailers have been quick to stock their shelves.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Conjugated linoleic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in small amounts in dairy products and red meat. Some studies have found that CLA can help you lose body fat and increase lean body mass. Some experts believe more quality studies are needed.
Fiber: If including fiber-rich food into your diet is a key to losing weight, why not a fiber-rich supplement? A fiber supplement, such as bran or psyllium, can delay gastric emptying and stay in the stomach longer, which helps with satiety. And there is plenty of research. In fact, a recent study found that overweight and obese people who took a fiber diet supplement daily reported less hunger after meals than people taking a placebo. If you decide to begin taking a fiber supplement, drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation. Consult your health care professional for appropriate fiber intake.
Green Tea Extract: Studies show that substances in green tea may offer several weight-loss-promoting effects, such as speeding up your metabolism and suppressing your appetite. Green tea contains caffeine, which is known to increase thermogenesis (a biological process involved in burning calories). According to a 2007 report from the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, green tea may fight the decrease in metabolism that typically accompanies weight loss. According to the report’s authors, green tea may also inhibit the effects of catechol-O-methyltransferase (an enzyme known to trigger the breakdown of brain chemicals involved in regulating appetite).
As the obesity epidemic rages on, the topic of weight management will continue to be a hot button on several health fronts. And as summer approaches, people tend to care more about what they look like in board shorts or a bikini. The focus for the manufacturer is to not lose sight of what really matters: formulating innovative, science-based products that will reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions for people everywhere.
In short, natural products companies are in a position to have a dramatic impact on the weight management concerns faced by consumers nationwide. I have no doubt our industry will continue to launch compelling new weight management products. I have no doubt our industry will continue to generate compelling new science in the area of weight management. The question that remains is whether consumers will implement a strategy in their daily nutrition routines that will promote a long-term solution to their weight-management challenges. VR
Mark Becker is a senior account manager for Vivion Inc, a raw materials distributor based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Becker has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 35 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. For more information, access www.Vivioninc.com or www.AlliedBionutrition.com.