The plethora of low-calorie and no-sugar beverages continues, as does the introduction of healthier foods with nutraceutical properties. One might conclude America's concern with sleeker, slimmer bodies is narcissistic, but a closer look at a “new” epidemic of what the Surgeon General calls “overweight and obesity” shows food formulators' products are right on target.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 25% of adults are considered obese. Adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 are overweight, while a BMI of 30 or greater is obese. Being overweight increases the propensity of diabetes, heart disease, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis and a myriad of other ill health effects. Even more alarming, the agency estimates about 13% of children aged six to 17 are obese, and they are suffering from these diseases earlier.

Obese children most likely will turn into large adults, thus creating a nightmare for our health care system. A report released last month, entitled “The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity,” estimates direct and indirect costs reached about $117 billion in 2000 ( This includes services such as physician visits, hospital and nursing home care, and wages lost by those too ill to work. Being overweight results in about 300,000 deaths annually.

Some feel it is their responsibility to step in where caregivers have failed. In California, Sen. Debra Ortiz is proposing a bill that would raise taxes on soda an additional nine cents for every two-liter bottle purchased. The money would be used to fund programs such as supplemental health care coverage and medical programs.

Other partial answers may lie in pharmaceuticals such as a new fat-burning drug being developed at the University of Dundee's School of Life Sciences in Scotland. According to information presented by the Press Association, scientists believe an AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) directs muscles to burn off carbohydrates and fat. This process usually is triggered by exercise and is thought to help prevent obesity and diabetes. One of the university's professors is working with pharmaceutical companies on AMPK-based drugs.

Whether for reasons of health or vanity, it behooves us to watch our weight, and new products will provide us the tools to reach our goals. For a preview of upcoming new products trends, we invite you to the 20th Annual New Products Conference where sessions, such as Mintel International's “taste and touch” sampling of new products that have been introduced around the world, will help spark new ideas.

For more information, please refer to the New Products Conferece section on

Internet Information

For more information on subjects covered in this issue's articles, see the Internet sites provided below.

Running Hot & Cold — General Mills — Quaker Oats

Absolutely FABulous — PepsiCo Inc. — Coca-Cola

An Energetic Mix — Sara Lee — Oberto Sausage

Dairy Diversifies — Dean Foods — Ben & Jerry

Center of Attention — Land O’Lakes — Perdue Farms

How Sweet It Is
— Details about tagatose

Boning Up on Botanicals — Business Guide For Dietary Supplement Industry

Value-Adding With Vitamins & Minerals — New England Journal of Medicine abstract on benefits of vitamins and heart disease

The Good Fats —
articles on CLA — CLA overview

Fiber Fixations — U.K.’s National Health Service review of the study linking fiber and mental health

Amenable Amino Acids and Peptides — Solgar Vitamin and Herb — Arizona Beverages

Ethnicity, Comfort and Convenience at Foodservice Forefront — Foodservice consultants — Provides foodservice operators with database and Internet marketing information