Weight Expectations


Allévo, a ready-to-drink shake, contains DSM’s Fabuless satiety inducer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC; Atlanta) latest report on obesity contains one heaping serving of bad news and one scant serving of good news. The bad news is that the nation’s obesity rate doubled between 1980 and 2004; it currently stands at 3.4% of adults, or 72 million people. The good news is that there was no significant change between 2003–2004 and 2005–2006.

The apparent leveling off of the obesity rate is a positive sign, but CDC is still worried. The current percentage of American adults who are obese (those with a body mass index of 30 or more) is more than twice the government’s Healthy People 2010 target of 15%, falling far short of expectations.

“In view of the alarmingly high rates of obesity in all population groups, CDC has made the prevention of obesity one of its top public health priorities,” Janet Collins, PhD, director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said last November when the report was released.

Preventing obesity appears to be a priority for consumers as well. Approximately 52% plan to make a “serious” attempt to lose weight in 2008, according to a new Harris Interactive (Rochester, NY) poll commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline (London). Whether consumers are able to meet their own expectations remains to be seen.


Consumers who want to lose weight have a range of options at their disposal, including diet plans, exercise, supplements, functional foods, pharmaceuticals, and even bariatric surgery. Estimates of the total U.S. market for weight-loss products and services range from $50 billion to $70 billion; the total global market could be at least four times as high.

Global sales of weight-loss drugs in 2005 reached $1.2 billion, according to a meta-analysis in the November 15, 2007, issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). One of the newest products, Glaxo’s over-the-counter orlistat pill Alli, sold more than 2 million units since its debut last June. Surgical weight-loss procedures have also gained in popularity, posting a fivefold increase in five years, according to an article in the December 14, 2007, issue of the Lancet. Marketdata Enterprises Inc. (Tampa, FL) estimates that bariatric procedures represent at least a $4.4 billion market.

Not all weight-loss approaches are right for all consumers, however, and each method has its risks, benefits, and limitations.

Dietary supplements and functional foods appeal to many consumers who aren’t candidates for weight-loss drugs or surgery. Popular products include appetite suppressants, satiety inducers, fat and starch blockers, thermogenic aids, diuretics, and even items that purport to optimize lean body mass. While it’s difficult to estimate the exact size of each category, about $20 billion of the total U.S. weight-loss
market is related to herbal supplements, according to Deb Vickery, director of marketing and product development at Nutraceuticals International (Elmwood Park, NJ).

Like consumers, ingredient suppliers also have positive expectations for the new year. “The weight-loss market continues to grow alongside the prevalence of Americans who are struggling with weight issues,” says Bob Green, president of Nutratech Inc. (West Caldwell, NJ). Green cites recent data from Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) indicating that although 50 million Americans try to diet each year, only 5% keep off the weight they lose. “That’s why there is a steady and increasing supply of potential diet- product users,” he says.


Appetite suppressants and satiety enhancers are perennial favorites among dieting consumers. Hoodia gordonii, a blockbuster ingredient that entered the market several years ago, is still popular, but other ingredients are also capturing the public’s attention.

“There is still a huge demand for it and I think there will be for some time, until something else really shows the potential to take its place,” Vickery says of hoodia, an edible cactus from Africa that is said to suppress appetite.

Another popular succulent, Caralluma fimbriata, is currently being studied in the laboratory. In the May 2007 issue of the journal Appetite, Indian researchers from St. John’s National Academy of Sciences in Bangalore reported that the cactus appears to suppress appetite and reduce waist circumference. In the trial, the researchers gave 50 adults either a placebo or 1 g of caralluma extract per day for 60 days. Although the researchers found that the extract suppressed appetite, they did not detect a statistically significant difference in body weight, body mass index, or hip circumference. Gencor
Pacific (Anaheim, CA) supplied its Slimaluma caralluma extract for the study. According to Jit Maheshvari, sales director at Gencor Pacific, Slimaluma is also supported by five toxicity studies.

Several new satiety products are derived from blends of oils and other ingredients that stimulate the release of hunger-suppressing hormones. According to Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager at Lipid Nutrition (Channahon, IL), appetite suppressants and other satiety aids might represent 10–12% of all diet products on the market.

“The appetite suppressant and satiety trend probably provides long-term potential because it addresses the root causes of excessive consumption,” says Luchsinger. “The possible advantage of many foods and drinks with an intrinsic appetite-suppressant ingredient or health benefit is that they will be seen as more natural, as opposed to a pharmaceutical approach. We believe that there is a large part of the market that appreciates this attribute.”

Some examples of satiety products include Lipid Nutrition’s PinnoThin, an oil derived from the nuts of the Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) that promotes the expression of the hunger-suppressing hormone cholecystokinin (CCK); Kemin Health LC’s (Des Moines, IA) Slendesta, a potato protein extract that also enhances the release of CCK; and DSM Nutritional Products Inc.’s (Parsippany, NJ) Fabuless, an emulsion of highly purified oat and palm oils that creates satiety in the ileum of the small intestine.

Several satiety ingredients have already made it into high-profile retail product launches. In October 2007, Key Essentials (Alpharetta, GA) launched a supplement called PinnoThin Plus that combines Lipid Nutrition’s satiety ingredient with coenzyme Q10 and flaxseed oil. Similarly, DSM’s Fabuless was a featured ingredient in Cederroth International’s (Upplands Väsby, Sweden) ready-to-drink (RTD) Allévo shake last year.

“Boosting the satiety benefit in an RTD weight-management shake with Fabuless performs two critical functions for people trying to manage their weight,” says Frank DeJianne, DSM’s senior marketing manager. “Dieters will consume fewer calories for the day, and they will not be as hungry because Fabuless is moderating their appetite.”


Ingredients that stimulate metabolism have been used in weight-loss products for decades. Although FDA’s 2004 ban on ephedra took a big slice out of the market, other ingredients like Citrus aurantium have stepped in to fill the void. Perhaps because they have been around the longest, thermogenic aids are among the most-studied diet ingredients.

“It’s really only thermogenesis, in conjunction with proper diet and exercise, that’s been proven scientifically to help take off weight,” says Nutratech’s Green, adding that there have been at least nine studies involving Nutratech’s Citrus aurantium ingredient, Advantra Z. “Weight loss is all about eating right and exercising. Adding in the ability to burn even more calories through thermogenesis is a great kicker.”

Another thermogenic ingredient, Humanetics Corp.’s (Eden Prairie, MN) 7-Keto, was shown in the September 17, 2007, issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry to reverse the decrease in resting metabolic rate that is normally associated with dieting, says Scott Steil, vice president of sales and marketing at Humanetics. 7-Keto is a metabolite of the steroid precursor dehydroepeandrosterone (DHEA).

“The study results are both innovative and significant for the weight-loss industry because 7-Keto is now the only nonstimulant fat burner with published data proving its ability to increase metabolic rate,” Steil says. “In addition, the fact that 7-Keto can produce top-shelf efficacy without any stimulant mode of action greatly enhances its value to the consumer in terms of safety.”


Natural fat and starch blockers derived from food represent another weight-loss avenue for consumers. One of the newest fat-blocking ingredients is derived from another edible cactus, while one of the most popular starch blockers is extracted from the white bean Phaseolus vulgaris. As with other natural weight-loss ingredients, supporting research is slowly evolving but promising.

NeOpuntia, an extract from the leaves of the succulent Opuntia ficus-indica, was shown in a 2004 study to decrease the bioavailability of fatty acids in vitro, according to the manufacturer, Bio Serae Laboratoires SA (Bram, France). In 2006, Bio Serae announced the results of a six-week clinical study involving 68 women with metabolic syndrome who received either 1.6 g of NeOpuntia or a placebo. In that study, the researchers noted that NeOpuntia decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 10%, compared with 3% in the placebo group, while improving high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. In addition, 39% of the volunteers in the NeOpuntia group were no longer considered to have metabolic syndrome after 42 days, compared with 8% of the placebo group. Bio Serae expects the results to be published this autumn.

CactiNea, another Opuntia ficus-indica ingredient from Bio Serae, is derived from cactus fruit, rather than cactus leaves. CactiNea contains high concentrations of two betalain pigments: purple-red betanin and yellow indicaxanthin. The ingredient can be used in supplements, but its orange tint and sweet taste make it suitable for beverage applications as well.

Both NeOpuntia and CactiNea are weight-management ingredients, but each has different mechanisms of action, says Karen Jaunatre, marketing manager at Bio Serae. “NeOpuntia can interact with fat when ingested, impeding part of its absorption, whereas CactiNea shows an interesting diuretic effect and helps to eliminate excess fluids, in addition to offering strengthened antioxidant protection,” she explains.

Meanwhile, starch blockers such as Pharmachem Laboratories Inc.’s (Kearny, NJ) white-bean extract Phase 2 continue to be popular weight-loss ingredients. Last January, Italian researchers reported in the International Journal of Medical Sciences that the extract seems to help produce significant decreases in body fat while maintaining lean body mass. In a study involving 60 overweight adults, the researchers found that volunteers who consumed 500 mg of Phase 2 per day lost 6.45 lb in 30 days, compared with less than 1 lb in the placebo group.


One of the most successful weight-loss categories involves ingredients that help optimize body composition by reducing body fat or building lean muscle mass.

Several studies suggest that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may help reduce body fat. For instance, last May, University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI) researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) that CLA not only produces a modest loss of body fat but also helps dieters keep the weight off. The study was a metaanalysis of 18 studies, including 15 conducted using Cognis Nutrition & Health’s (La Grange, IL) Tonalin CLA.

“According to the paper published in AJCN, Tonalin CLA can enhance overall health by effectively reducing body fat and potentially preventing weight and fat regain commonly experienced by adults,” says Sharrann Simmons, senior marketing manager at Cognis.

In another sign of the growing acceptance of CLA’s weight-reduction benefits, restaurant chain Jamba Juice (Emeryville, CA) added Lipid Nutrition’s CLA ingredient, Clarinol, to some of its smoothies last August. Jamba Juice’s Weight Burner Super Boost contains 2 g of Clarinol, while the company’s Fit ‘n Fruitful smoothie contains 3.5 g.

Another product that may help reduce body fat and build muscle mass, Sabinsa Corp.’s (Piscataway, NJ) Leangard, was discussed last March at the Slimming Ingredients conference in Berlin. Leangard actually contains three ingredients, the Coleus forskohlii extract Forslean, hydroxycitric acid (HCA), and black-pepper extract. According to Lakshmi Prakash, PhD, vice president of innovation and business development at Sabinsa, the coleus extract contains a compound that may increase lean body mass and optimize body composition by activating cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Garcitrin, the HCA ingredient, helps reduce fatty acid synthesis and enhances lean body mass, while the black-pepper extract, Bioperine, helps support nutrient absorption.

An additional ingredient that does not neatly fit into any weight-loss category is fucoxanthin, a pigment contained in brown seaweed. According to Nutraceuticals International’s Vickery, fucoxanthin is not an appetite suppressant, lipid blocker, or metabolic stimulant. In a small study involving animals that was published in the July 2005 issue of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, researchers reported that fucoxanthin extracted from Undaria pinnatifida seaweed reduced abdominal white adipose tissue in mice and rats. A protein called UCP1 was expressed in the white adipose tissue, indicating possible thermogenic activity, the researchers wrote. Future clinical studies involving humans, however, are needed.

“What makes fucoxanthin so unique is that it has been scientifically proven to burn fat, particularly abdominal fat, by adaptive thermogenesis within white adipose tissue,” Vickery says. “This approach has never been explored before.” Nutraceuticals International recently began offering a 10% fucoxanthin product extracted from pure wakame seaweed harvested from the Sea of Japan.


Millions of consumers will purchase weight-loss products in 2008, and their expectations are high. Almost 60% of those who participated in Glaxo’s Harris Interactive poll said they believed that appetite suppressants, herbal products, and other dietary supplements are at least somewhat effective. But according to some communications experts, whether consumer expectations will be met depends a great deal on how the products are marketed.

Experts suggest that aggressive marketing can undermine the motivation to live a healthy lifestyle, a problem they term the “boomerang effect.” In an August 2007 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s (Philadelphia) School of Medicine and Wharton School of Business noted that consumers who take OTC or prescription drugs for weight loss are more likely to eat junk food and live a sedentary lifestyle. Interestingly, dietary supplements didn’t appear to have the same effect, according to the researchers.

The researchers also noted that successful marketing requires a careful balance between underselling and overselling a product’s effectiveness. If consumers think a product is ineffective, they won’t buy it; but if they think it’s too effective, they won’t concentrate on dieting and exercise. “Drug marketing-and even supplement marketing-should be treated with caution, lest such products seduce consumers into treating them as get-out-of-jail-free cards,” wrote the authors.

Regardless of how successful consumers are at meeting their expectations in 2008, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers expect demand for weight-loss products to continue.

“Globally, more than 1 billion people are obese or overweight,” says Nutraceuticals International’s Vickery. “This is the first time in history the global population consists of more people who are overnourished than undernourished. It’s no longer just the United States that is fighting an obesity epidemic. The diet and weight-loss industry is, and will continue to be, a booming industry worldwide.”

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