Childhood Obesity = Big Bucks

Workout Blues

Unfortunately, childhood obesity usually continues on into adult obesity, because as time goes by it gets harder and harder to lose weight. Habits solidify, and the body itself fights to maintain the overweight condition to which it has become accustomed. Consequently, there is a lot of money to be made, and financial reporters are not shy about admitting this. Karen Canella, for instance, straightforwardly tells potential investors:

The sheer number of people who are obese — and the markets that cater to them — represent an opportunity to shape up our health and stock portfolios… We’re on the verge of a super-sized trend… [W]eight management-related companies are licking their collective chops.

This is taking place, Canella says, because of the American Medical Association’s decision to classify obesity as a disease. Therefore, according to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies have to cover this disease. Extrapolating from current trends, the price tag for obesity treatment could be more than $900 billion a year by 2030.

The “smart money” advises investors in the market to acquire stocks related to weight management — in other words, companies that make exercise machines and replacement meals, run fitness centers, perform surgical procedures, and offer consultation on nutrition and other aspects of obesity reduction. This galaxy of industries already accounts for about $90 billion per year in sales. Also recommended are the pharmaceutical corporations that make the three approved, and very costly, weight-loss drugs — Xenical (from Roche), Qsymia (from Vivus), and Belviq (from Arena).

And insulin — that one is a sure bet. The most optimistic estimate for investors (and most pessimistic future vision for regular people) is that by the year 2050, nearly 30% of the American population could have diabetes — and most of it will be Type 2 diabetes, the kind that results from obesity. The annual insulin bill, $15 billion, is already five times what it was in the year 2000.

Over the next 10 years, Canella quotes the probable spending on insulin as more than $3 trillion. Another financial website confirms the bad news:

In 2012, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that the U.S. was the most obese country among developed countries; 36% of its population was obese. The U.S. is the fastest-growing market due to the increasing obesity rate, rising awareness of health and fitness, aggressive marketing strategies to attract customers, and rise in number of diabetic patients.

Low-calorie foods marketed specially for weight loss are recommended, as are low-cal beverages and drinks containing mineral salts, along with strength-training equipment and cardiovascular workout machines. Mainly, this adviser recommends any investment related to bariatric surgery. Specifically:

Minimally-invasive and non-invasive surgical procedures that use highly sophisticated equipment like endoscopes and laparoscopes have been developed. In addition, non-invasive weight loss techniques like cryolipolysis, transoral obesity revision surgery, cold laser shaping, and Stomaphyx are also gaining popularity.

Speculation on future obesity and the profits to be made from it is very discomfiting, but this MarketWatch.com headline is downright chilling: “Hepatitis C Important, But Investors Should be Focusing on Fatty Liver Disease…” Already, today, more than one American in four actually has fatty liver disease. With clinical obesity, it’s almost inescapable. This writer says:

Fatty liver disease, the accumulation of fat in liver cells, is the number one liver disease in the United States and a silent killer of epidemic proportion. The accumulated fat leads to inflammation that eventually leads to fibrosis, or scarring of the liver. In turn, the fibrosis leads to cirrhosis of the liver, an irreversible disease largely only resolved through transplantation.

This dangerous condition is closely associated with both obesity and diabetes, and what is more, it often remains undiagnosed until irreversible damage has occurred, and is often found in conjunction with liver cancer. What a splendid fertile ground for the growth of stock portfolios! The writer goes on to say:

This explains why investors should be considering biotechs developing novel therapies for fatty liver disease. The indication and related co-morbidities present an enormous patient population and the competition is relatively thin…

You can almost hear the collective licking of chops.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Three Ways to Profit From a Super-Sized Trend,” MarketsAndProfit.com, 07/13
Source: “North America Weight Loss Management Market and Obesity Management Market,” MarketsAndMarkets.com, July 2013
Source: “Hepatitis C Important, But Investors Should be Focusing on Fatty Liver Disease …,” MarketWatch.com, 07/17/13
Image by Ms. Phoenix.

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