Many born before 1960 may remember the nation’s interstate highways lined with forests of billboards, interspersed with unsightly businesses and junkyards. Those eyesores have largely disappeared, and travelers are treated to more scenic views with natural plantings. The change was propelled, in part, by what is known as Title I of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. One driving force behind the change was Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson, and her “Beautify America” campaign. Other First Ladies have championed other causes, such as Rosalyn Carter’s mental health advocacy efforts and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” drug campaign.

Today’s presidential spouse, Michelle Obama, has declared a “Let’s Move” initiative to reduce childhood obesity. It has garnered as much, if not more, attention than any previous movement—in part, because it is badly needed.

Bad News, Good News
In the January 20, 2010, issue of the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers reported data from the “2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” (NHANES) showed 10% of U.S. infants and toddlers and 18% of adolescents and teenagers were obese (i.e., of “high weight”). The good news is that, except for boys 6-19 years old who were at the heaviest weight level, these rates have not increased in the last 10 years (Ogden, CL, et al. 2010. JAMA. 303(3):242-249).

In more recent data from a Datamonitor report, “Kids Nutrition: New Perspectives and Opportunities,” 40.7% of U.S. children between the ages of 5-13 were found to be obese or overweight, a number expected to reach 43.4% by 2014. On the other hand, a national study of 4,603 students, predominately low-income blacks and Hispanics, published online (accessed June, 2010) in the New England Journal of Medicine, detected an actual 4% decline in obesity rates. (Using the search term “Children’s Obesity Rates Possibly Declining” at, see E-dition’s coverage of the study.)

Rates differ by gender and race, with 14.5% of non-Hispanic white girls (age 12-19), 17.5% Hispanic girls and 29.2% of non-Hispanic black girls considered obese, according to CDC, National Center for Health Statistics (NHANES). A higher percent of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white boys (12-19) were more obese than their female counterparts, but fewer (only 19.8%) non-Hispanic black males (12-19 years of age) were obese.

As for adults, another paper in the January 20, 2010, JAMA reported the often-quoted statistics that 33.8% of U.S. adults were obese, and overall, 68.0% of adults were obese or overweight. (See for the JAMA study.) Less often relayed is the authors’ upbeat statement that the increasing rate of obesity appears to be slowing, “particularly for women and possibly for men.” A June 29, 2010, press release from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation detailed obesity statistics by state, race and income, and other factors, as it noted obesity rates had increased in 28 states. (See

The U.S. is not alone in regards to weight issues. The World Health Organization estimates that, globally, there are at least 1 billion overweight adults, and 300 million are obese. (See

Food and Beverage Manufacturers Respond
In May of this year, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, composed of some 95 organizations from retailers, restaurants, trade associations, sporting goods companies, and food and beverage manufacturers (including food companies, such as Mars, Sara Lee, Kraft, Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo), made a pledge to cut 1.5 trillion calories from the U.S. food supply by 2015. Strategies will include launching reformulated and new reduced-calorie foods and also reducing portion sizes of single-serve items. The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s president and CEO, Pamela G. Bailey, commented on past efforts by saying, “We have improved the nutritional profile of more than 10,000 of our products to reduce sugar, fats, calories and sodium.”

Product developer responses in the “2010 Prepared Foods’ R&D Trends: Weight Management Formulations” survey also indicate they believe the industry has a role to play. When asked, “How important are the following factors in solving the obesity crisis in the U.S.?” they placed the greatest responsibility on consumers themselves, saying they needed to know more about food and nutrition. However, the factor falling into second place was: “Nutritional, low-calorie foods need to be more affordable,” and the third-ranking factor was: “Food and beverage manufacturers need to market better-tasting, low-calorie foods.” (See chart “Solving a Weight Issue.”)

Beyond being “the right thing to do,” market opportunities exist in providing products targeting a health issue of 68% of the adult population. A 2010 report, “Weight Management Trends in the U.S.,” by Packaged Facts, estimates the global market for weight loss foods and drinks (i.e., weight loss bars and snacks, drinks, frozen meals and diet desserts) is $18 billion.

Weight management products take a variety of forms. Foods and beverages with lower fat and/or calories than traditional versions dominate. Often, they are presented in conjunction with portion-control efforts. One recent such product is Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream’s The Skinny Cow brand, in a Dulce de Leche variety that has 150 calories and only 1g fat in a 5.8fl oz single-serve cup that resembles a small carton of ice cream. The sensory-pleasing desserts are formulated with flavorings, and the smooth textures are enhanced with hydrocolloid ingredients, such as polydextrose, microcrystalline cellulose, cellulose gum and locust bean gum, as well as emulsifiers, whey protein and inulin (with the ingredient statement noting this is a dietary fiber).

Beyond such “minus” products, where calorie-contributing components are reduced, interest grows in “plus” products that “add in” higher-value added ingredients. Packaged Facts notes a shift toward formulations with functional ingredients that…“are being used in dietary supplements and over-the-counter weight management drugs.” The research firm also relays increased interest in products that can suppress appetite or enhance satiety. Although not making a claim to that effect, a recent extension in Kellogg’s Special K2O Protein Water powdered mix line, Iced Tea, contains several ingredients with growing reputations for satiety—including a protein (whey protein isolate) and a dietary fiber (polydextrose appears in the ingredient legend, and the label notes it contains 5g dietary fiber per serving or 20% of the daily value). Low-calorie sweeteners, as well as vitamins B6 and B12 typically used in energy drinks and black tea extract, are also included in the formula.

Indeed, a June 2010 report from Frost & Sullivan, “Opportunities in Global Weight Management Ingredients,” says this market segment had revenues of $7.5 billion in 2008 and predicts it to reach $13.9 billion by 2010, worldwide. The report specifically mentions areas covered in satiety ingredients/appetite suppressants and fat burners (i.e., thermogenic ingredients), among others.

Some ingredients possess dual functionalities; that is, they improve the sensory profile of reduced-fat or -calorie products, while also enhancing benefits, such as satiety. Indeed, a large array of ingredients is available for the formulation of weight management products. The benefits and functionalities of some are well-known, while product developers in the food, beverage and nutritional supplement industries are less sure of others. This was the particular focus of the “2010 Prepared Foods’ R&D Trends Survey: Weight Management Formulations.”

Ingredients for Weight Management Formulas
Prepared Foods’ weight management formulation survey lists 30 ingredients or ingredient categories used in weight management products, along with six benefits/functionalities. The ingredients ranged from ones typically used in reduced-fat products for texture and flavor improvements, such as “hydrocolloid gums,” “resistant starch,” “polydextrose” and “flavorings,” to those with emerging beneficial reputations, such as proteins, green tea, CLA and probiotics, to high-profile ingredients in the dietary supplement industry, like chitosan, Hoodia gordonii and Garcinia cambogia (which contains the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid).

The six functionalities listed were “Enhances satiety,” “Improves sensory properties,” “Alters metabolism,” “Increases physical activity,” “Benefits emotional well-being” and “Hinders calorie uptake.” The survey then asked, “What formulation benefits do you see with each of the following ingredients in products positioned for weight management?” Multiple responses were allowed for the ingredients; that is, an ingredient could be recognized to have more than one functionality.

A complete chart presenting the matrix of results (ingredients vs. functionality) is posted online at (type in “Online Chart of Weight Management Product Ingredients”). One subset of results is shown in this article, in the chart “Of Ingredients, Satiety and Metabolism.”

The top-ranked satiety-providing ingredients are all generally related to the dietary fiber and proteins categories. 59% of survey respondents say hydrocolloid gums enhance satiety, followed by 58% saying dietary fiber does so. Most hydrocolloid gums could generally be classified as dietary fibers. Whole grains, often associated with dietary fiber, came in third, with 56% saying they enhance satiety, followed by vegetables (47%) and fruit (42%). Resistant starch and polydextrose fell lower on the satiety list. Whey, soy and proteins, in general, were also associated with satiety.

Hoodia gordonii, succulents belonging to the family Apocynaceae, have developed a high-profile reputation in the dietary supplement industry specifically for appetite suppression, although one paper noted its historical use was as a thirst inhibitor (van Heerden FR. 2008. Hoodia gordonii: a natural appetite suppressant. J Ethnopharmacol. 119(3):434-7). Of the respondents to the Prepared Foods’ survey, some 15% say their responsibility involves product development for dietary supplements, which may explain why only 11% of the respondents identified this supplement for its suppression benefits.  A greater percent of respondents (21%) identified it for its benefit in altering metabolism.

Metabolism-altering benefits were attributed to stimulant ingredients, such as green tea (with 53% of respondents making that connection), caffeine/theobromine (51%) and guarana (35%). Some 24, 46 and 25% of respondents, respectively, also say those ingredients have the benefit of enhancing physical activity. Only some 15% of the largely food- and beverage-oriented product developers checked off altering metabolism as a benefit of Garcinia cambogia, but a very large contingent of 48% attached this benefit to “chromium.” Recent studies with chromium (III) picolinate provide support for its ability to reduce carbohydrate cravings and regulate appetite in patients with atypical depression (Docherty JP, et al. 2005. J Psychiatr Pract. 11(5): 302–14). Another study indicated it may reduce cravings for fat rather than carbohydrates (Vincent JB, 2003. Sports Med. 33(3):213-30).

Dairy, Calcium and Probiotics
The ability for dairy foods and, more specifically, calcium to assist with weight control has been controversial. A study presented in 2000, in which obesity-prone mice were given low-fat dry milk and a calcium supplement, indicated both components could assist with weight loss. However, by 2007, countering evidence caused several national dairy advertising campaigns to agree to stop promoting the claim that dairy products cause weight loss.

Interest in these potential dietary items has not disappeared, especially with ongoing research supporting their role. To name just a few, one recent meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials on calcium intake (whether from dairy or as a supplement) concluded that calcium increased fecal fat excretion and could play a role in weight management (Christensen R, et al. 2009. Obes Rev. 10(4):475-86). Another paper found positive results with fortified soy milk, calcium supplement and cows’ milk, in particular, on weight loss in 100 healthy overweight or obese younger women (Faghih S, et al. 2010. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis,/i>. [Epub ahead of print, March 15, 2010]). Lastly, in research reported to have been sponsored in part by Danone, a low-fat yogurt enriched with protein and fiber significantly reduced short-term appetite, as compared to non-enriched, commercially available controls (Lluch A, et al. 2010. Food Quality and Preference. 21(4):402-409). In Prepared Foods’ survey, 43% of respondents say dairy products benefit products positioned for weight management, in that they enhance satiety; 39% say they improve sensory properties; and 39% say they benefit “well-being.”

The importance of microbial flora (i.e., microbiota) in the intestinal tract is an area of growing interest and much research. “Indigenous gut microbes may regulate body weight by influencing the host’s metabolic, neuroendocrine and immune functions,” noted Spanish researchers, in a paper titled, “Gut microbiota in obesity and metabolic disorders” (Sanz Y, et al. 2010. Proc Nutr Soc. [Epub ahead of print, June 14, 2010]). They went on to say certain probiotics, prebiotics and related metabolites may have beneficial effects on lipid and glucose metabolism and the production of satiety peptides, among other actions. In Prepared Foods’ survey, a high percent of respondents (49%) linked probiotics with altering metabolism benefits.

Chitosan to Lo Han Guo
Some 46% of survey respondents say “high-intensity sweeteners” have a beneficial function, by improving sensory properties of products positioned for weight management, and 30% say they “hinder calorie uptake.” This result may be explained by the fact they would be consumed instead of higher-calorie counterparts. However, respondents were less familiar with luo han guo extract, a high-intensity sweetener with FDA-notification GRAS status. Only 8% indicated that natural botanical could enhance a product’s sensory profile.

Chitosan is sometimes called the “animal fiber,” in that it is a linear, indigestible polysaccharide derived from the exoskeleton of crustaceans, as well as fungi cell walls. It has long been sold as a “fat binder” dietary supplement, thus limiting lipid absorption. The normally conservative Cochran Reviews, in a review titled, “Chitosan for Overweight or Obesity,” grudgingly concluded chitosan may have a small effect on body weight and further qualified that by saying high-quality research indicated a likely minimal effect. Only 18% of those in the Prepared Foods’ survey noted the ingredient could “hinder calorie uptake.”

Other ingredients with various amounts of research supporting their weight management benefits include:
* Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): 34% identified its benefit as “alters metabolism,” with another 16% saying it “benefits emotional well-being.”
* L-carnitine: 35% say it “alters metabolism,” and 21% say it increases “physical activity.”
* Enzyme (alpha-amylase) inhibitors, in some cases previously referred to as starch blockers: 38% say it alters metabolism, 23% say it hinders calorie uptake.
* Omega-3 fatty acids: 40% say they alter metabolism, and 23% say they hinder calorie uptake.
* Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT): 27% say they alter metabolism, and 19% say they enhance satiety.

Although Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign targets overweight youngsters, it could also be a rallying cry for food and nutritional ingredients jockeying for a role in weight management formulations. pf

Website Resources: tens of thousands of articles and news releases, useful keyword searches include “weight control,” “thermogenic,” “satiety,” “fat reduction” and “calorie reduction” -- Use the search phrase “Trends and Costs Impacting Hydrocolloid Use” for a June 21, 2010, E-dition article on this subject -- A video of Michelle Obama announcing details of the food industry’s pledge to reduce 1.5 trillion calories in the food supply by 2015