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Obesity is one of the significant global health challenges, having a severe socio-economic impact. It is basically an imbalance in calories consumed versus calories expended. Over the past two to three decades, it has grown to be a global epidemic and impacting people across age and geographic regions, which has a direct influence on morbidity and mortality. Several factors such as genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, high consumption of fat and sugars (energy-dense foods), daily routine, taking certain medications, endocrine problems, and physical inactivity contributed immensely to obesity. Similarly, environmental or societal changes, behaviour, and culture also have a direct impact.
As per the WHO, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight, and of these, over 650 million were obese. Overweight is a common condition in developed countries, such as the United States, the UK, and other European countries. As per a survey from 2017-2018 by NHANES, in the US, the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity among adults was 42.4% in 2017–2018. Similarly, according to NHS England (2020), the majority of adults were overweight or obese, and nearly 67% of men and 60% of women were classified as overweight or obese. The situation is not well in the developing countries as well. The low- and middle-income countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and others are observing rapid growth in the prevalence as compared to high-income countries.
In 2020, nearly 39 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese globally. The impact is not severe during childhood, but it can lead to premature death and disability in adulthood. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, and breathing problems are closely associated with obesity. Apart from these, overweight and obesity can lead to musculoskeletal disorders and can also be a critical factor in developing certain types of cancers.
Despite being a preventable disease, nearly one-third of the world’s adult population is overweight or obese. Leading companies have developed various pharmacotherapies and medical devices to tackle the rising prevalence and meet unmet needs. The treatment options are available based on the severity of the condition, economic status, and personal preferences of the user. Behaviour modifications, prescription medicines, surgical options and medical devices are available to tackle obesity efficiently.
Impact of Dietary Changes and Physical Exercise on Overweight
Dietary changes aim to reduce the intake of processed, refined, and ready-made food high in sugar and fat and increase the consumption of whole grains, low-calorie sweeteners, organic food, protein supplements, and other high-fibre supplements/foods such as vegetables and fresh fruits.
As per the product types, the dietary supplement market for weight management is segmented into meals, beverages, and supplements. Some of the most common products include green tea (or herbal tea), low-calorie sweetener, stevia, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), aspartame, sucralose, diet soft drinks, slimming water, saccharin, and others.
The key companies in the Weight Loss and Weight Management Diet Market include Cargill Incorporated, Pepsico, Kellogg, Atkins Nutritionals, Herbalife Ltd. (Herbalife), Nutrisystem Ltd., General Mills Incorporation, Abbott Laboratories, Ingredion Incorporated, Medifast, Inc., The Kraft Heinz Company, WW International, among others.
Weight loss equipment can be a great way to do physical activities, boost workouts, burn calories, and create an energy deficit in the body. The key companies in the fitness equipment market include Brunswick Corporation, Amer Sports, Johnson Health Technology, Ltd., Cybex International, Technogym SpA and several others. Being quite expensive can be a key factor for their low demand.
Medication for the Weight Management and Obesity
Today, certain FDA-approved medicines are available in the market for weight loss with different mechanisms of action. Some medications work like stopping the body cells from absorbing fat from the foods, while some other medicine class makes a person feel less hungry. Medications provide optimum results when combined with dietary and lifestyle changes or followed by physical activity. Various studies have suggested that prescription medications and lifestyle programs have provided better results than single programs. It is a must to mention that weight-loss drugs may not be effective for everyone. Similarly, they may lead to serious side effects as well.
In June 2021, FDA had approved a new drug treatment Wegovy (semaglutide) by Novo Nordisk for Chronic Weight Management, the first since 2014. Wegovy (semaglutide) injection can be used by adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition and for use in addition to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. Currently, some of the key companies in the Weight Loss/Weight Management (Obesity) Market, including Boehringer Ingelheim (BI 456906), Innovent Biologics (Suzhou) Co. Ltd. (IBI362), Eli Lilly and Company (Tirzepatide), NeonMind Biosciences, Pfizer, and others, are actively investigating new therapies for the Weight Management. The treatments are in different stages of clinical development and are expected to launch in the coming years.
Weight Loss/Weight-management Surgeries and Medical Devices
It is not likely that every person may respond well to dietary or lifestyle changes or medications. When medication is ineffective or obesity-related complications grow to a more significant extent, the person may follow surgical options or use medical devices upon recommendation from the doctor or physician.
Weight loss surgery, commonly called bariatric surgery, aims to either make the stomach smaller or bypass part of the digestive system. The surgical equipment market for weight loss is divided into minimally invasive/bariatric equipment or noninvasive surgical equipment market. Gastric bypass surgery, Gastrectomy, and Gastric banding are the most common surgeries for weight loss. The surgery helps the person to lose weight and at the same time reduce the risk of certain obesity-related life-threatening diseases.
Over the past few years, health agencies, including the FDA, the EU, and several countries globally, have approved the Medical Devices for weight loss and weight management. The FDA approved medical devices for weight loss includes Gastric Band, Electrical Stimulation Systems, Gastric Balloon Systems, and Gastric Emptying Systems. The long-term data regarding the safety and effectiveness of these devices still require in-depth study. Similarly, the FDA-regulated devices for the Weight-Management include Oral Removable Palatal Space Occupying Device and Ingested, Transient, Space Occupying Device. Apart from these, several anti-obesity medical devices are available as over-the-counter products.
Several, leading global MedTech companies in the segment are diligently developing new devices with higher effectiveness and safety. The leading companies in the weight-loss surgical equipment market include Apollo Endosurgery, Ethicon, Inc., Olympus Corporation, Covidien, plc., and others. The lack of unique regulatory guidance, safety, availability, and high cost associated with the development of the device is the key challenges associated with these.
Rising Growth of Fitness Apps for Weight Loss
The fitness apps are also gaining popularity among people to lose weight, gain physical fitness, and to live a healthy and sustainable life. Fitness or weight loss apps helps to track daily lifestyle activity such as calorie intake, calories burned, weight and physical activity with valuable data and insights. The apps keep track of stats over a period which is easy to analyse and interpret. The apps come with several in-built features which are easier to use and operate. Apps are not just limited to tracking the activity; they have several other features such as educational information, coaching support, podcasts, online courses, webinars, and regular valuable feedback from nutritionists and fitness experts. The app usage brings behavioural changes in users’ habits and continuously motivates them to attain desired fitness goals.
Globally, the Fitbit App, WW App, Noom, FatSecret, Cronometer, Fooducate, PeopleOne Health, MyNetDiary, Lose It! App, MyFitnessPal are the leading fitness and weight loss apps. Along with the advancement in technology and the growth in the internet and smartphones, the fitness apps or virtual weight loss market is growing significantly faster. To stay competitive in the market and to gain market share, the fitness apps industry is expected to evolve immensely with many advanced features, usage, and lucrative offers to the user. In the coming years, digital technologies such as advancements in AI, cloud, and wearable technology, will also stimulate the fitness app industry to grow immensely.
What lies ahead
The global prevalence of obesity has observed massive growth over the years and is expected to grow in the coming years. It disrupts the health status of society and leads to even more complex and severe life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, and cancer. In recent times, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on rising prevalence. The lockdown measures have changed the lifestyle pattern leading to less physical activity and several other behaviour changes in daily life. The governments and health agencies need to work on new strategies to tackle rising prevalence and spread awareness about the long term consequences.
Sedentary lifestyles, growth in disposable income, and a rise in physical inactivity will be the critical factors for the increase in the obese population in the coming years. However, with the increasing awareness about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, a growth in popularity of healthy organic food and increased expenditure on health and fitness products, the situation can be tackled efficiently. Similarly, global pharmaceutical and MedTech companies are also working diligently to provide an effective treatment paradigm. However, the stringent regulatory guidelines, high cost of the weight-loss devices, long-term efficacy, the side effects associated with the pharmacotherapies will be the key factors to be addressed.