The same sentiment reappeared in my education a dozen years later, as I finished up clinical studies as a registered dietitian. Our instructors drilled into us that it should be our goal to “work ourselves out of a job.” Our overweight patients should become fit, our diabetic patients should have their blood sugar managed and our heart patients should have their cholesterol levels normalized.
Unfortunately, a generation’s effort toward this goal has amply demonstrated that—when it comes to striving for a concrete conclusion—obesity is different. The hard science of obesity reveals a metabolic complex filled with cascade effects and feedback loops. The events that led two-thirds of our nation’s adults (and half of its children) to live in a perpetual state of compromised health might once have been summed up as “too many calories, too little activity.” However, what obesity really does to a human body (and brain) has taken many food and nutrition experts by surprise.
The physiological and biochemical processes impacted by being overweight alter metabolism to such a profound degree, the cure is far removed from simply doing the opposite of what brought on the condition in the first place.
It’s clear that food, beverage and supplement manufacturers need to alter their goals. Products targeting the management of weight—and the myriad disease states that result from being heavy—have to be long-term-use products. They must be tailored to be effective, desirable and readily available for a lifetime, or at the very least fit a daily diet that serves the consumer over the course of years or even decades.
I expect “fad” foods and ingredients in the weight management channel—those items long on promise and hype but short on performance—to fall by the wayside in the coming years. Start thinking in terms of common, familiar, better-for-you products that consumers will adopt easily and permanently. This issue, our annual “Ingredients for Health” special, is filled with ideas and information to help food and beverage formulators create tomorrow’s healthier products. Let us know what you think!