Press Room

Nielsen Survey Sheds Light on Global Plans for Shedding Pounds and Getting Fit

New York, NY January 14, 2009 – The results of a Nielsen survey in 52 countries indicate that there is a global appetite for improving health through better diet and exercise.  The survey was conducted online at the end of September 2008 as part of Nielsen’s Global Online Consumer Survey series that periodically track global trends and regional preferences. 
“While some issues such as weight loss are global, there are decidedly different views and approaches in different regions,” said Jonathan Banks, Business Insight Director at The Nielsen Company. “Not only are these findings interesting to share, they provide valuable insights for marketers with global reach”. 
Fully half of respondents in a Nielsen 52-country survey considered themselves to be overweight and planned to tackle the issue during the New Year. 
  • 60% of the world’s population is struggling with their weight
    • 50% with overweight  
    • 10% with underweight issues.
  • 78% say they will change their diet
  • 69% plan to exercise more
Tactics for paring pounds vary:
  • 69% say they will cut down on fats
  • 65% plan to cut down on chocolates and sugar
  • 53% will eat more natural, fresh foods
  • 46% vow to eat the same foods but having smaller portions
  • 29% resolve to eat less processed food.
  • Fewer than 10% turn to other diet plans such as the low carbohydrate/high fat Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers or other slimming programs. 
Regional profiles
North Americans are most likely to identify themselves “very overweight” with 6% of respondents providing that answer. That is double the response in Emerging Markets (3%) and about 30% higher than Asia Pacific or Europe residents. On the opposite end of the scale, the “most underweight” regions include Asia Pacific, where more than half of respondents scored themselves as “underweight” (12%) or “about the right weight” (41%), Latin America and Emerging Markets.
Asia Pacific has the highest percentage of self-reported underweight citizens, but that region also had one of the highest percentages of people trying to lose weight (53%). Latin Americans reported the highest percent trying to lose weight at 57%.
Exercising options 
Consumers in every region report plans to combine changes in eating and increased exercise. Asia Pacific residents struck a balance between the two tactics with 77% changing their diet and 73% exercising more. North Americans were more prone to attack diet issues first at 84%. Emerging Market consumers were more than twice as likely (14%) as North Americans (6%) or Europeans (7%) to use diet pills/bars/shakes to help shed pounds.
When it comes to the exercise option, results proved counterintuitive. North Americans claim to be the most overweight of any region, yet they self-report the highest levels of exercise with 70% stating they work out at least once a week or more. Conversely, Asia Pacific residents do the best job of managing weight but exercise less than any other region with 58% saying they work out at least once a week.
Emerging Market natives were the most likely to claim that they never exercise, yet maintain good body weight. The reasons for this might be better overall diets and a lifestyle which promotes walking and features fewer sedentary jobs. Walking is far and away the exercise of choice in all five regions, followed by working out at the gym in four of five regions,
Healthy eating
How can people eat more healthily? In four out of five regions, dieters said they would be more likely to cut down on some food groups to achieve balance. The sole exception was Asia Pacific, where survey respondents said they would eat the same food groups, just in greater moderation.
Roughly 20% of participants in four regions felt they already consumed a pretty healthy diet, with North Americans alone in acknowledging they could do better–only 14% believed their current diet plan was healthy.
Roughly half of consumers were confused by the barrage of diet and healthy eating info available in the marketplace, much of it conflicting. When asked where they got the best information about diet and healthy eating
  • 68% cited doctors and medical professionals
  • 36% turned to the Internet (36%),
  • 34% counted on TV programs and documentaries
  • 29% read books on diet and nutrition
  • 25% rely on the nutritional information on packages
  • 17% turn to family
  • 14% found information in magazines
  • 13% use newspapers
  • 11% base decisions on information from friends
  • 5% get information at the purchase site in supermarket brochures and flyers