Studies on health consciousness among Americans have been carried out on the telephone by Peter D. Hart Research Associates on the telephone among a representative sample of 1,018 "Less Active" American adults more than 18 years old. The definition of less active was taken as being people who exercised vigorously less than twice a week. The summary of the study stated that 43% of the total adult population is less active while 57% belong to the more active section. The study was conducted among all Americans on behalf of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the collaborator was the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
The study showed that some groups of the population like women and lower-income Americans have more than their representative shares of population in the Less Active group. The other interesting factor is that the low levels of activity are found in all groups of population - young or old, educated or less educated. The majority of the "Less actives" are under the age of 45, and as many as 46% of them have attended college. The other interesting factor is that they do not have any specific reason against increasing their activity. As many as 81% of them have stated that there are a good number of places in the area where they stay to get the type of exercise that they would like to get, the only deficiency is of enough desire. (American Attitudes toward Physical Activity & Fitness A National Survey)
The biggest target among the people for promotion of increased physical activity are the 20% of the "Less Actives" who have stated that they clearly wanted to be more active, and would find it easy to be more active and have also reported that they are likely to be more active within the next six months. This group is younger than the mean and also has been connected to more exercise in the immediate past. The main reason for not being more active is the lack of time according to most people, and this was identified by 43% of the people as the reason in a reply to an open-ended question. The next important reason is family responsibilities which are cited by 15% of the people. The other interesting aspect is that the benefits of exercise appear to be more of a motivating factor about the benefits of exercise than the dangers of inactivity. Thus it seems that positive encouragement seems to be more effective than frightening through the dangers of inactivity. (American Attitudes toward Physical Activity & Fitness A National Survey)
The most important aspects of this change are the friends and family, and it has been seen that the biggest attraction for any American is to have a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend to exercise with them. The effect is much more than that of doctors and this is true for the main group of "Less Actives" under the age of 45. This is reflected in the fact that when the spouse is active, the partner is also likely to be more active. The other important reasons for increasing exercise would be if the employers paid for the cost of a fitness center - 58%, getting time off during the workday for exercise --56% or the availability of athletic facilities at the workplace -- 55%. (American Attitudes toward Physical Activity & Fitness A National Survey) The study clearly shows that there is a lot of health-consciousness among Americans, but a large segment of them is probably too lazy to be taking any action about it. These are the people who probably look at the selection of food and beverages selection as their method of maintaining their health.
The Americans have been shown clearly that some types of food clearly help in the reduction of calories from the diet. There have been recent studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed even irregular se of reduced fat foods to significantly reduce the over-all intake of fat by the individual. This is certainly an important benefit for the Americans who consume as much as 34% of the calories from fat and this is more than the recommendations of most experts. This intake of high fat has been linked to obesity, some types of cancer, and an increased chance for coronary heart disease. On the other side, reduced fat foods and beverages are also useful for the diet of people trying to loose weight or stay at a lower weight. In a study of moderately "plump" women it was seen that a low-fat and ad labium diet including decreased fat foods and beverages "can result in substantial weight loss and is associated with improved palatability and quality of life compared with a low-energy diet." (Is low-fat a cure-all?)
There was a study conducted in The Netherlands on Multi-centre Study on Fat Reduction that showed consumption of reduced fat foods and beverages almost permanently helped people maintain their body weight without affecting their health related physiological parameters. The benefit of reduced fat products is to help consumers who are health conscious to combat their greatest fear in loosing weight according to surveys - giving up their favorite foods. This was also reflected in a recent survey by the American Dietetic Association which showed that this was the greatest difficulty as mentioned by consumers in America. The foods and beverages with reduced fat permit consumers to enjoy their favorite food which would have contained useless fat otherwise and as a result more calories. The replacing agents for the fats are in many cases only other food ingredients that were being used earlier. (Is low-fat a cure-all?)
The food industry has also tried to help in this regard by using new ingredients replacing fats through the use of new and innovative techniques. The types of replacement for fat used in a product depend mainly on the properties of the fat that is being changed. This helps in providing benefits to the public as there are a number of ingredients which can be used as replacement for fat and they have the rich, creamy, good taste that was being provided by fats for the consumers to enjoy the dish. There has been research as mentioned in the American Journal of Medicine which states that "The only available explanation for the paradoxical increase in body weight with a decrease in fat and energy intake is that physical activity declined." (Is low-fat a cure-all?)
What are the health foods and beverages?
Apart from the concept of natural foods, there is the concept of functional foods and this has been estimated to have sales of more than $18.2 billion in 2001 according to Nutrition Business Journal of San Diego CA. This is a growth of 8% and the market share of functional foods is only about 3.5% of the total market in U.S. foods. There are predictions that sales will increase to above $32.7 billion in 2005. The growth has already been reflected in the tripling of the sales of foods and beverages during the period of 1997 and 2001. Apart from the foods that we have discussed, there were functional beverages that were selling for another $7 billion and there the growth rates were above 12%. Part of the reason for the changes in the diet is the changes that American diet has already undergone. The diet in the time of industrialization was calorie rich and nutritionally dense, and also bio-diversified. During the industrialization, the society has concentrated on the Western diet and that is calorie rich, but poor in nutrients. The bio-diversity has also been removed. As a result, 99% of the children in America do not get the requirement of each of the five major groups of food every day as recommended by the USDA. (The Bright Future of Functional Foods and Beverages)
This can be understood when French fries and potato chips are seen to constitute 25% of the vegetable intake for the children. The consumption of calcium is also very low and only 25% of the boys and 10% of the girls get the required amount. It has been seen that 90% of the food purchased by Americans is now processed food, and this has led to the introduction of around 10,000 new processed food products every year in the market. This is leading to a situation where the consumer gets lower levels of anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients due to the non-consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables as also whole grain products. Thus the new studies are showing that there is a clear relationship between the diet and the chronic diseases that the population is afflicted with. (The Bright Future of Functional Foods and Beverages)
The health foods and beverages come in various forms and the market has been undergoing a lot of consolidation over the past few years. The changes in the market are occurring due to increases in the demographic factors…