Foreword to Summer 2014 Issue

Key and emerging weight management ingredients eating away the obesity epidemic

While some major health issues have seen numbers start to reduce, obesity, despite global health authorities efforts to combat the issue, continues to grow. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 500 million people are currently obese, with this forecasted to grow to 700 million by 2015. Recently more countries in Asia have entered the list of nations with obesity issues. The Lancet released a report in June showing that almost half, 44% of men and 49% of women in Malaysia are now overweight or obese, the highest rate among South East Asian countries. While percentage wise other countries may be low, the actual number of people who are obese is high. The number of obese people in India is estimated at 84 million, whilst in China it is 67 million and despite one of the healthiest diets globally, Japan has an estimated 4 million people who are obese.

Mintel research found 33% of Chinese consumers have taken weight loss products in the last 12 months. Findings indicate the more overweight they are, the more likely consumers are to try other products. Mintel research found 32% of consumers who indicated they were ‘slightly overweight’ would take weight loss products compared to 63% consumer who
were ‘overweight a lot’. Similarly the consumers who claim they are ‘overweight a lot’ are more likely to use traditional Chinese weight loss measurements than those who claim they are ‘slightly overweight’ with 30% of ‘overweight a lot’ consumers agreeing with this compared to 16% of ‘slightly overweight’ consumers.

When it comes to formulating weight management products, one of the key ingredients is fibre. The main soluble fibres include inulin, polydextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, indigestible dextrin, soluble corn fibre and soluble wheat fibre. In recent years indigestible dextrin has become more widely known due to a few high profile launches including Kirin’s Mets Cola and Suntory’s Pepsi Special in 2012 on the Japanese market which incorporated indigestible dextrin. These colas claim to restrict the body’s ability to absorb fat while eating. This year Coca-Cola launched a ready-to drink tea with a double FOSHU (Food for Specified Health Uses) claim, reportedly the first tea beverage to have two FOSHU claims. Coca-Cola’s Karada Sukoyaka Healthy Body Tea W is a blended tea said to inhibit the absorption of fat and sugar. Other emerging fibres to watch include konjac, chitosan crustacean fibre and chia. The use of konjac in food, drink and vitamin and dietary supplements with a slimming claim has doubled in the last 3 years, from July 2011 until June 2014. Chitosan fibre use is low, used predominately in Japan and South Korea but increasing evidence indicates it could reduce the absorption of fat in the intestinal tract. As more research unfolds into its properties, its use as a weight management ingredient could increase. Chia has been popular in recent years but not as a weight management ingredient. New evidence indicates it has good gelling properties due to its water absorption ability. This could offer potential as a weight management tool if it absorbs water in the gut, increasing the feeling of satiety.

The current trend, especially in the US, of high protein foods has already had an impact on food and drink products with slimming and satiety claims. Protein helps increase satiety – a benefit that resonates well with consumers. This trend is continuing to evolve outside of the US and more dietary supplements are likely to incorporate protein to be able to make a high protein claim.

Other ingredients of interest have been polyphenols from tea, apples and onion, bitter orange, GABA, bromelain, white kidney bean, guarana and garcina. At Vitafoods Asia, which takes place on 3-4 September, Mintel will present more on these trends.

For more information on Mintel’s ingredient expertise to get a free download of Mintel’s exclusive Ingredients and Innovation insight piece, please visit:

Pam Yates, Research Manager, specialising in Food Science at Mintel, Shanghai