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Virtually Healthy: Internet conference illustrates increased knowledge about weight management

Wednesday, December 15, 2010  
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Virtually Healthy: 
Internet conference illustrates increased knowledge about  weight management

By Lisa Gable, Executive Director, Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation

The healthy weight movement took a big step this month with the first virtual conference on the future of weight management – a day-long Internet symposium on innovation across the weight-loss industry.

Weight Management 2010 Virtual Conference & Expo covered a wide range of areas important to the future of weight management. Participants included leading voices in these key areas.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the virtual conference was the way it demonstrated the dynamic nature of weight management. The over 900 people who attended  got the opportunity to learn more about the cutting edge science of probiotics and prebiotics, new weight control practices and nutritional ingredients, product reformulation, and the technique of satiety (products that promise to fill you up for a longer period of time).

Attendees from around the world spent on average more than two and a half hours at the virtual conference. This global audience was comprised of 56 percent of attendees from North America, 28 percent from Europe, eight percent from Asia, seven percent from South America, and one percent from Africa. The food, beverage and dietary supplements industry was well-represented, constituting 64.5 percent of the audience. And just over 60 percent play a role in purchasing decisions.  

The level of expertise and information made it easy to forget an important fact: Some of these products and practices were barely heard of just a few years ago. Now, they have the potential to dramatically reduce obesity and help millions achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It almost seems like advancement in this area is best measured in dog years – a 7-1 ratio over the calendar.

While one cannot forget the enormity of the challenge America faces in this area, one also cannot help but be impressed by the amount of resources, energy and know-how that is being summoned to address the problem.

A quick summary of the conference program gives a sense of the substance behind it, and the potential for significant breakthroughs:
  • State of the Market: After Atkins and Beyond included a speaker who publishes a leading market research publication charting the rise of the $20-billion weight management sector with special focus on dietary programs to achieve weight management, from Atkins to GI (Glycaemic Index) and Weight Watchers.
  • Satiety Fills Up the Weight Management Options focused on the growing market of products that promise to fill you up longer, discussing how the science works, which products can support their claims, and which concepts are on the horizon – featuring a professor of experimental psychology at University of Sussex as speaker.
  • The Three Phases of Weight Control™- A New, Natural Approach to Controlling Hunger, Starches, and Sugar put the spotlight on Pharmachem’s three-part method to helping consumers control their weight, based on how they gain it (overeating or too much starch or sugar). It included  a speaker with extensive experience as a pharmacist and certified fitness instructor.
  • Tonalin® CLA - Delivering Core Value – Executives of Cognis Nutrition & Health provided an overview of the health benefits of conjugated linoleic acid and the nutritional ingredient Tonalin®, including a review of extensive clinical studies and the product’s impact on body fat reduction, and prevention of fat regain.
  • Gut Health and Obesity: The Promise of Pre- and Probiotics – Given the gut microflora of obese people is different from their lean counterparts, this session brought together a researcher for Nestlé and a professor from the Metabolism and Nutrition research group at Belgium’s Universite Catholique de Louvain to discuss probiotics and prebiotics, where the science stands, where it is going, and how it could be used to help shrink waist sizes.
  • Reformulating for Weight Management Success featured a panel of  stakeholders from industry, academia and consumer groups to discuss the interlinking issues of reformulation, portion control, and nutrition labeling.
  • Health Claims: Building the Science, Navigating the Regulations looked at how to build the science to substantiate a proposed weight-management based health claim, and what an agency like the US Federal Trade Commission looks for when it evaluates such claim, with a science leader from Unilever and an attorney from the Federal Trade Commission. 
  • The Skinny Carbs Trend reviewed how foods high in carbohydrates seem to be making a comeback. An author, R.D., and nutrition food editor discussed the weight-loss benefits of eating starchy foods as part of a sensible eating plan. 
As I said, the conference covered a lot of ground. If you missed it, it is available, free of charge, at (for a year). It runs eight hours (1 hour per session) and is worth the time. Bringing together high-level presenters to address cutting-edge topics, it is an opportunity to get a lot of perspectives on weight management – and find out how many dimensions the issue has, and how much we are learning about it.   

Lisa Gable is Executive Director of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a first-of-its kind coalition that brings together more than 125 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, restaurants, sporting goods and insurance companies, a professional sports organization, NGOs, trade associations, and the U.S. Army.

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