Studies show that the obese are suffering from the coronavirus at a higher rate than normal. Along with aging, obesity has been identified as the biggest risk factor for people admitted to hospitals with COVID-19. Obesity significantly increases the risk of patients developing severe pneumonia, for example.
While the food industry has taken a huge economic hit during this crisis, experts say that the same industry needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility for its role in our nation’s health woes by contributing to obesity.
According to Forbes, the United States has an alarming obesity rate of 42%. Studies have linked obesity to a diet of unhealthy food and beverages. A study by the Hudson Institute revealed that those with obesity purchase significantly more packaged snacks, chips, pastries, and soda than consumers with healthier weights. Studies have found many links between our obesity epidemic and its correlated diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The rise in incidence of these diseases parallels a rise in the consumption of ultra-processed food.
According to Forbes, the coronavirus outbreak will likely boost unhealthy eating habits in the short term because people are stress-eating — and probably not binging on broccoli. But Hank Cardello, a food industry expert writing for Forbes, says that the pandemic has taught us the food industry needs to make healthier foods more flavorful and convenient.
Here are his suggestions to food makers, food retailers, and restaurant chains:
- Own the health of your consumer and customers. “Treat their well-being as part of your business models,” he says.
- Stop treating healthier products like second-class citizens. “Years ago, the soft drink business never imagined the viability and rapid growth of bottled water. Today waters outsell soda,” says Cardello.
- Change your mindset from operational to long term. “A large and fast-growing number of consumers have embraced healthier food that is sustainably sourced,” says the expert. “The coronavirus has amplified this trend. Food companies that capitalize on it will come out of the tunnel stronger.”
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