By Michael Torchia
Americans currently spend over $50 billion a year on diet books and weight loss products. Amazon.com customers, alone, purchase 10,992 titles on dieting per day, generating $150,967.19 in daily sales revenue last year.
And while diet and nutrition title books enjoyed a 9% growth in sales in 2010 (up 5% from the previous year), the lion’s share of growth occurred in books on “low-carb” dieting – a concept introduced by the publishing industry nearly ten years ago. Currently, 32 million Americans observe “carb conscious” lifestyles and spend over 2.5 billion dollars on products that assist them in maintaining this lifestyle.
Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Parthenon Capital believe this rate of consumption to be just the tip of the iceberg. Both banks recently invested $600-800 million in Atkins Nutritionals, a company that manufactures low-carb cereal, pasta and other products thought to be low-carb “no-nos,” in response to market data indicating that Americans want products that make it possible for them to follow a low-carb lifestyle, while doing all the same things they usually do and eating all the same things they usually eat.
Which leads us to fast food… Whether “Junk Food Junkie” on a daily fast food diet or a health-savvy urbanite sneaking in an occasional fast food meal, Americans have an affection for the taste and convenience of fast food. Regardless of what cautionary titles and documentaries like Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me! expose, or even obvious acknowledgements from the fast food industry, itself, such as McDonald’s recent announcement that it was dropping its long-standing “Supersize” program, people who know better can’t seem to cut out the junk.
How prevalent is this phenomenon? A recent CNN report indicated that 75% of all Americans eat a fast food meal at least once a week – with no appreciable deviation when higher education is factored in. More disturbing is that, in the much-heralded The Journal of Pediatrics article announcing that one third of all American children ages 4-19 eat a fast food meal daily, those most prone to fast food eating were children from higher-income, higher-educated households. (The Journal of Pediatrics)
Clearly, in the cases of children ages 4-15, it is likely that an adult accompanies the child to the fast food meal. If this is the case, even well-educated adults who have been warned about the dangers of fast food continue to consume it. In addition, when factoring in the information provided by the Burger King Corporation, indicating that 75% of those who identify themselves as “low-carb” eaters would like to continue frequenting fast food establishments, it is clear we need educate the children and adults on the dangers of food addiction, if we are ever going to reduce the epidemic of obesity in America.