FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, March 28, 2005

Obesity Could Reduce Average Lifespans; Fast Food No Help

Obesity has become such a problem in the US that researchers believe that it could actually reduce the average American lifespan. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago estimate that within 50 years, the average lifespan of 77.6 years will shorten by two to five years due to obesity-realted illnesses -- erasing approximately 25 years in steady lifespan gains.

Not helping the cause is Burger King, which is introducing its Enormous Omelet Sandwich. The sausage, egg, cheese and bacon sandwich weighs in with 730 calories and 47 grams of fat. Though fast food leader McDonald's has been offering more health fare as of late, and Subway made its name as a healthy alternative to fast food, other fast food restaurants appear to be going against the health tide. Last fall, Hardee's introduced its 1,400-calorie, 107-fat-gram Monster Thickburger.

The market success or failure of these sandwiches will tell us much about how much Americans care about their waistlines or health in general. Putting this in perspective, an "average" healthy daily calorie intake is between 2,000 and 2,500 calories. The recommended maximum fat intake (including all fats) for a 2,000-calorie diet is 65 grams. Learn more about recommended daily nutritional values here.

UPDATE: McDonald's, for one, may have backed off of super-sizing, but they know where their core market lies, are wagering that they're not health nuts, and think they know how to reach them. It's been reported that Mickey D's is seeking rap stars who will mention Big Macs in their songs. In return, the artists would receive a royalty of $1 to $5 each time their song is played on the radio. This tells us that a) McDonald's sees the young urban hip-hop audience as its core customers (or at least a customer base worth cultivating), and b) thinks the best way to reach this audience is through an unconventional (some might say subversive) marketing campaign. No details on which rappers have taken the bait, but McDonald's hints that they have received some promising responses.

Sources: MTV.com, CNN.com