Obesity: Global Public Health Challenge or Investment Opportunity?

Worried about the potential personal and economic costs of obesity?  Never mind.  It’s time to view obesity as a business opportunity.

As the press release for a new research report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Globesity—The Global Fight Against Obesity, points out:

“Increasing efforts to tackle obesity over the coming decades will form an important new investment theme for fund managers…Global obesity is a mega-investment theme for the next 25 years and beyond…The report…identifies that efforts to reduce obesity is a “megatrend” with a shelf-life of 25 to 50 years…BofA Merrill Lynch analysts across several sectors have collaborated to identify the sectors and companies developing long-term solutions.”

Given the worldwide increase in obesity, its high prospective costs, and the ever-present threat of government regulation, the report identifies more than 50 global stocks that provide investment opportunities for fighting “globesity.”  These fall into four categories:

  • Pharmaceuticals and Health Care: companies taking advantage of the FDA’s increased support for obesity drug development; tackling related medical conditions and needs including diabetes, kidney failure, hip and knee implants; making equipment such as patient lifts, bigger beds and wider ambulance doors.
  • Food: companies accessing the $663 billion “health and wellness” market and reformulating portfolios to respond to increasing pressure such as “fat taxes” to reduce sugar and fat levels.

  • Commercial Weight Loss, Diet Management and Nutrition: companies pursuing dieting, nutrition and behavioral change—a $4 billion market in the U.S. and growing globally.
  • Sports Apparel and Equipment: “This is the longer-term play, but we believe that promoting physical activity will become a key priority for more government health policies.”

Well, that’s one way to look at it.  Public health, anyone?

Marion Nestle is the author of What To Eat and is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. Nestle blogs regularly at Food Politics.

5 replies »

  1. Well said Mr Glenn!
    “Obesity is going to be the worlds biggest market” I agree.
    Surprisingly, I was looking at the same website a few days ago. Onciomed.com they have not mentioned what they do, but the website videos are so informative.
    I don’t see anything wrong if obesity is an investment opportunity. I would like people to modify their lifestyle and live health lives. But the fact is we are more addicted to the TV and the electronics and kids spend more time in front of a TV than the playground.
    I had LASIK surgery, i remember, before the invention of LASIK procedure,
    all ophthalmologist were ophthalmologist, after LASIK invention, everyone became a LASIK surgeon. I think the same is going to happen with Obesity. All bariatric surgeons will become obesity surgeons and it will not be a stigma to get treatment for obesity. Already insurance is paying for Lapband. That is a great surgery. I heard that the company who invented lapband sold the company to Allergan for over a $ Billion.
    So surely, BOA_ML is right Obesity is a BIG investment opportunity.
    ALso, good for patients, more investments will translate into new technologies. It’s an ecosystem.

  2. Obesity is #1 cause of preventable death in US.
    70 Million people are obese, of which 14 million are super obese and are approved by medicare to get invasive treatment like bariatric surgery.
    The cost of surgery ranges from $35,000 to $85,000 you do the math.
    Obesity was never a disease it was a medical condition, so no doctor knew how to deal with this, so now CDC has declared it as a disease as a result new treatment have emerged resulting in a tremendous investment opportunity. One such company developing a novel technology to treat obesity and diabetes is http://www.onciomed.com
    This company is working on novel treatments and is located in Orange County. I just learned that their name ONCIOMED was derived from “Unit of weight Ounce”
    I think in the next decade obesity clinics are going to be everywhere in the US. This is going to be the worlds biggest market! Cardiac surgeons are converting to become bariatric surgeon or obesity surgeon
    So BOA and ML is correct, the disease has become an investment opportunity.

  3. There’s no disputing that obesity is a health challenge. A lot of people from different countries are suffering from obesity. The industry will most likely take advantage of the problems in the society such as obesity. They make these problems an investment opportunity. You know. Sadly, that’s life.

  4. Industry will try to make money off of anything, so why not obesity? I feel like there has been a boom of dieting adds on TV over the last couple years when compared to the last decade. You can’t get through one commercial break without seeing a Weight Watchers, NutraSystem, or Jenny Craig add (not to mention diet/fat burning pills).

    To me, the obvious fix is to have everyone be more active more often and eat less. But who wants to do that? That would probably solve A TON of our problems, especially in the US, but people can come up with all kinds of excuses as to why neither of those options can fit into their lives.

    It will be interesting to see the true impact (if any) this industry explosion will have on obesity. The complications of obesity put such a strain on healthcare systems all over the world–which is a shame because obesity is largely preventible (and, thus, its complications like type 2 diabetes, etc). When it comes down to it, any morally and ethically sound strategy for decreasing incidence and prevalence of obesity should be fully embraced, even if it means someone is going to make a killing in profit.

  5. If we take a look at it, the problem of Obesity is more like an investment opportunity. It is hard to avoid for companies not to take the opportunity to invest in this kind of global health problem. Due to large investment placed on this issue, the account of obesity as being a global public health challenge was easily set aside. Hope we can also have generous amount of campaigns against obesity, that will clearly warn the public than seeing the anti obesity acts commercially.