Eat your Wheaties and lose weight? While food makers like General Mills (NYSE:GIS), Kellogg (NYSE:K), ConAgra (NYSE: CAG), and Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB) tout the healthfulness of their products, it's been prescription drug makers that typically have done the heavy lifting when it comes to really shedding the pounds.
No doubt about it, America is fat. According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults are considered obese with those in the southeast, particularly Louisiana, being the fattest. The epidemic finally led the Food and Drug Administration to change its long-held views on weight-loss drugs that had been shaped by the failures of phen-fen, allowing it to approve two new therapies that hold out hope for serious weight reduction. Both VIVUS (NASDAQ:VVUS) and Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA) will soon be wrapping their arms around the problem.
But now there's a global food manufacturer looking for a supplement or food additive to help you lose weight while you eat.
NineSigma, a middleman in joining Fortune 500 companies and solutions providers, posted a request for proposals on its website saying its anonymous client wanted "food materials that have an anti-obesity effect." But it doesn't want just any ingredient like those that would inhibit the absorption of fats or simply make you feel full by using plant fibers; rather, it wants to explore those that have been tested on animals that at least increase your sense of satiety after being eaten by boosting your basal metabolism.
Giving your metabolism a jolt is a key means to losing weight. Metabolism is the process by which the body breaks down food to produce energy. Your muscles store up energy, but as you age you lose muscle and gain fat. That's why a lot young people seem able to eat and eat and eat without gaining weight. They've got plenty of muscle storing up energy and burning fat. After we hit 40, though, we're losing muscle, and our metabolism slows down 5% every decade. A sedentary lifestyle doesn't help, either.
That's why General Mills, for example, markets the aforementioned Wheaties as a means to "Jumpstart Your Metabolism," though with its focus on whole grains, it undoubtedly covers that sense of fullness obtained from plant fibers.
Recently researchers have found that an extract of a type of Asian catnip can reduce obesity in mice (oh, the irony!). Mushrooms have also been shown to have an effect on fat rats. So it seems there's a lot of research out indicating this Fortune 500 company is heading in the right directions.
NineSigma has an impressive client list, with 3M (NYSE:MMM), DuPont (NYSE: DD), and food giant Kraft Foods (UNKNOWN:KRFT.DL) having used the organization's services. With the deadline for submissions listed as next week, the company is looking to commercialize the supplement in four to five years.
Since I don't plan on adding mushrooms to my bowl of Wheaties anytime soon, I'll have to rely upon standard means of reducing this growing midsection bulge -- a proper healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Barring that, I can always look for the drug makers to come up with weight-loss in a pill, so I won't have to drag myself off the couch and work up a sweat.
If General Mills, Unilever (NYSE:UL), Kraft, or H.J. Heinz (NYSE: HNZ) can come up with a food that really would help you lose weight, it would soar ahead of the competition and maybe even the drug makers.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend H.J. Heinz Company, 3M Company, and Unilever. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.