LONDON, July 17 The fight against obesity will
be a major investment trend for the next 25-50 years, a report
by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch said on Tuesday, listing 50
companies in areas from healthcare and pharmaceuticals to food
and sports that could benefit.
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 to over
500 million people and keeps increasing, according to the World
Health Organization. The related costs to public health and the
economy are skyrocketing.
A study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention has said that about one-third of American adults are
obese and another one-third overweight.
"Obesity may be the most pressing health challenge facing
the world today and efforts to tackle it will shape thinking by
policymakers and in boardrooms around the world," said Sarbjit
Nahal, equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.
"Global obesity is a mega-investment theme for the next 25 years
The world's biggest insulin producer Novo Nordisk
and U.S companies including orthopedic device makers Zimmer
Holdings Inc and Stryker Corp are among those in
the pharmaceuticals and healtcare sector that are best placed to
benefit from the fight against obesity, based on an estimate of
current sales and how this could drive growth, the report said.
In the food sector, the report ranks some 20 companies on
the basis of how they could access a global "health and
wellness" market it estimates at $663 billion, and how they are
prepared to respond to increasing pressure to reduce sugar and
fat levels in food products.
France's Danone and U.S. firms Dole and
Seneca Foods Corp. make the top of the BofA list in
this sector, with the highest exposure to the fight against
"Although it is difficult to accurately gauge the link
between such exposure and share price performance ... we still
consider fighting obesity exposure an important positive point
to track," the report said.
With diets and related products a $4 billion market in the
United States, the report said, companies such as Weight
Watchers also made the list together with nearly 20
sports apparel and equipment stocks including Nike and
The sports sector "is the longer-term play, but we believe
that promoting physical activity will become a key priority for
more government health policies," the report said.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index - a measure
of height to weight - of 30 or greater. Overweight means a BMI
of 25 to 29.9.
The percentage of Americans who are obese has tripled since
1960 to 34 percent, while the incidence of extreme or "morbid"
obesity has risen six-fold, to six percent.
The pricetag of obesity has also soared, with the condition
contributing an additional $190 billion a year in healthcare
costs, or one-fifth of all healthcare spending.