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Obesity and its toll are soaring, CDC says

BY Jim Frederick

ATLANTA — Obesity rates continue to soar among the U.S. population, particularly in children. And the result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, leads both to “psychosocial problems and to cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol and abnormal glucose tolerance or diabetes.”

Childhood obesity now affects some 12.5 million children and teens, or 17% of all youth in America, the CDC noted in a report issued Friday. That’s a dramatic increase in recent decades, with obesity rates tripling in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the agency.

“During the past 10 years, the rapid increase in obesity has slowed and might have leveled,” the report added. “However, among the heaviest boys, a significant increase in obesity has been observed, with the heaviest getting even heavier. Moreover, substantial racial/ethnic disparities exist, with Hispanic boys and non-Hispanic black girls disproportionately affected by obesity.”

Citing one study, the CDC noted that 70% of obese children had at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor, and 30% had two or more. What’s more, “although the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in teens is very low, a recent report estimated that 15% of new diabetes cases among children and adolescents are Type 2 diabetes [cases]," the agency said. "In the 1980s, Type 2 diabetes in teens virtually was unheard of.”

Behind the rising obesity rates, according to the report, are such factors as “shifts in food consumption, changes in physical activity levels and higher levels of TV-viewing, with the consequent inactivity and marketing of food to children.”

Among adults, the news also was dismal: A full third of grown-ups in the United States are now obese, the agency said. That 34% obesity rate translates into nearly 73 million adult men and women who are significantly overweight. Equally striking, according to the agency, is the fact that on average, U.S. adults weighed 24 lbs. more than they did in 1960. That means “increased risk for health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers,” the agency noted.

It also means skyrocketing healthcare costs. “Although obesity prevalence has remained mostly flat in the past 10 years, the costs associated with obesity have increased substantially during the same period,” the CDC reported. “One study estimated that approximately 9% of all medical costs in 2008 were obesity-related and amounted to $147 billion, compared with $78.5 billion 10 years before,” the report noted.

The CDC is recommending a wide range of approaches to deal with the obesity epidemic. Among them, according to the agency, are “strategies that alter the food and physical activity environments in places where [people] live, learn, work, play and pray.”

The agency’s recommendations extend from the beginning of a child’s life. “Breast-feeding has been shown to have substantial health benefits for children,” the report noted. Other recommendations include “decreasing consumption of high-energy-density foods, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, decreasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and decreasing time spent watching television and exposure to food marketed to children.”

For kids, fast-food consumption should be cut way back, the report added, and “activity levels can be increased by making it safer to walk or bike to school. Quality school physical education programs that keep children moving the majority of their time in physical education class should be implemented,” the CDC noted.

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Ahold reports positive Q4

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Supermarket giant Royal Ahold, which operates under five banners in the United States, reported that U.S. customers’ continued focus on value drove its sales.

Fourth-quarter same-store sales for the company’s U.S. sector, excluding gasoline, rose 0.9%. Additionally, total-year net sales for Ahold USA jumped 3.1% to $23.5 billion. Net sales decreased 2% before adjustment for the impact of an additional week in 2009, the company said. In 2010, the conglomerate acquired Ukrop’s, a Virginia supermarket chain, for $140 million through its Ahold’s Giant-Carlisle division. The acquisition lead Ahold to realize $5.6 billion in net sales for the fourth quarter, a 6% increase when compared with the adjusted fourth-quarter 2009 sales.

For the 52-week period, ended Jan. 2, net sales totaled $23.5 billion, a 5.1% increase, compared with the adjusted full-year sales in the year-ago period. Sales from Ukrop’s stores totaled $458 million.

Commenting on its financial earnings, Royal Ahold said, "We delivered strong sales performance in all of our markets. The environment remained challenging, and customers continued to focus on value, driving intense promotional activity, particularly in the United States."

Royal Ahold operates under Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Giant Carlisle, Martin’s and Peapod banners.

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Delhaize moves ahead with New Game Plan

BY Allison Cerra

SALISBURY, N.C. — Delhaize Group on Thursday said that while its U.S. revenues dropped 1% to $18.8 billion, the retail conglomerate hopes to keep its business afloat by going forward with its New Game Plan.

Ending the quarter with more than 1,600 supermarkets in the United States — which included the opening of 40 stores and remodeling or expansion of 31 stores in the Richmond, Va., and Greenville, N.C., markets — Delhaize said it is increasing its store openings by investing $1.2 billion in 2011, including 120 to 130 store openings and approximately 120 store remodels. The expansion mainly will effect its Bottom Dollar Food banner, although Delhaize also disclosed remodel plans for three Food Lion stores.

Delhaize said it also was forging ahead with such sales-building initiatives as price investments, private-brand innovation and assortment optimization.

Delhaize’s Pierre-Olivier Beckers said during 2010 that its U.S.-based banners, namely Food Lion, "made important price investments as part of the New Game Plan," adding that Delhaize’s continued "commitment to price investments" kept its U.S. retail inflation "largely below" national inflation.

In addition to its $18.8 billion in revenue, comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter improved from -1.8% in the third quarter to -0.8%.

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