Obesity fight seen as major investment trend

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Increasing efforts to tackle obesity over the coming decades will form an important new investment theme for fund managers, according to a new BofA Merrill Lynch report.

"Global obesity is a mega-investment theme for the next 25 years and beyond. Obesity may be the most pressing health challenge facing the world today and efforts to tackle it will shape thinking by policy makers and in boardrooms around the world," said Sarbjit Nahal, equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.

The report comes after it was revealed that Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain were ranked among the world’s top ten fattest nations with obesity rates expected to severely affect global food security.

It said the average person in Kuwait, the second fattest country in the world behind the United States, weighs in at approximately 77.5 kg, 15.5kg heavier than the global average, according to a research report published by BMC Public Health.

Gas-rich Qatar was ranked third globally with the average adult consuming just over 3,000 calories per day, followed by the UAE in fifth place (3017 calories) and Bahrain in tenth position (2889 calories).

BofA Merrill Lynch said efforts to reduce obesity was a "megatrend" with a shelf-life of 25 to 50 years.

Globally, 500 million people are obese and 1.4 billion are overweight.

Obesity is the fifth greatest cause of death, leading to 2.8 million fatalities each year. Worldwide prevalence of obesity doubled between 1980 and 2008, according to the World Health Organization.

By 2030, 65 million more Americans will be obese if current trends continue. While its impact is well-known in the West, obesity is rising quickly around the world.

BofA Merrill Lynch said investors should take a long term view and a broad perspective in selecting stocks across pharmaceuticals & healthcare, food, commercial weight loss, diet management & nutrition and sports apparel & equipment.

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