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One Year Later, We're Still Too Fat

10 January 2014 in Trading Ideas

Any good news about global obesity rates should be taken with a grain of (low-sodium, please) salt.

Last fall, for example, the National Center for Health Statistics said that obesity among US adults has continued to level off after several decades of skyrocketing growth. In 2012, about 34.9% of the people in this country were obese. That’s down slightly from the 35.7% who were obese in 2010.1

Great news, right? No! Those results are not even statistically significant, according to Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the center, who told USA Today at the time of the survey’s release that “this is more evidence that we’re not seeing a change in adult obesity.” According to Ogden, there really has been no significant change in obesity rates since 2004, when it was about 32%.

As most of us know, obesity takes a huge toll on society’s health. On an individual level, it contributes to a long list of serious health problems including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver problems, degenerative joint disease, and some types of cancer.

And by no means is this solely a US problem. In fact, the latest research indicates that obesity rates are surging in the developing world, while merely remaining relatively flat in wealthier countries.

fighting fat motifAccording to a recent study from a UK think tank, the number of obese or overweight people in the developing world nearly quadrupled from 1980 to 2008, while in richer countries obesity rates grew by only 1.7 times.2

By 2008, there were nearly twice as many overweight or obese people in developing countries (904 million) as there were in higher-income nations (557 million).

But let’s face it, the richer countries, also are likely to have more resources to encourage and combat weight loss, as well as experiencing higher consumer demand.

Our Fighting Fat motif, which comprises stocks of companies in such industries as diabetes care, weight management products, weight-loss drugs, gyms and appetite suppression, is up 1.9% in the past month and has gained 16.7% over the past 12 months.

The S&P 500, during that same time period, has increased 1.8% in the past month and is up 28.5% in the last 12 months.

Supporting the motif’s investment thesis is the expectation that the global weight-loss market will continue growing, hopefully faster than worldwide obesity rates. A study by research consulting firm MarketsandMarkets projected that the total global weight-loss market could be worth $586.3 billion by the end of 2014, marking a 10.9% compound annual growth rate since 2009.3

Pass the salad, will you?

1Nanci Hellmich, “US obesity rates fall off, but still an epidemic,” USAToday.com, Oct. 18, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/17/obesity-rate-levels-off/2895759/, (accessed Jan. 8, 2014).

2Denver Nicks, “Study: Obesity Rates Have Surged In Developing World,” Time.com, Jan. 3, 2014, http://healthland.time.com/2014/01/03/study-obesity-rates-have-surged-in-developing-world/, (accessed Jan. 8, 2014).

3MarketsandMarkets press release, “Global Market for Weight Loss Worth $586.3 Billion by 2014,” http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/global-market-for-weight-loss-worth-$726-billion-by-2014.asp, (published June 2009, accessed Jan. 8, 2014).