TT-454 -- Obesity epidemic, ebiz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, January 27, 2008 Issue No. 454


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How fat is fat? According to the Ministry of Health, Labor,
and Welfare (MHLW), a man with a waistline of 85cm or a
women with one of 90cm is said to be probably suffering
from "metabolic syndrome" -- a nicer way of saying they're
overweight. Of course how many centimeters around your
waist is a pretty broad measure and not very scientific. A
better way of expressing one's fat affliction is Body Mass
Index (BMI), which is calculated as your weight in kilograms
divided by the square of your height in meters (kg/m2). A
BMI over 25 kg/m2 is considered by WHO, and the MHLW, as
overweight, and a BMI of over 30 kg/m2 is considered

Actually, even measuring your BMI is not very accurate,
ignoring as it does such factors as age and race. If you
really want to know what your fat situation is like, you
need to have a proper reading of the percentage of body
fat in your body, either by a skin fold measure or by
finding someone with a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis
(BIA) scale. One consumer product that will do this is the
Tanita Innerscan product. It works by sending a small
electric current up through your torso and determines the
amount of body fat by measuring resistance. Muscle
tissue, thanks to its high water content, is more
conductive, while fat is less so.

Currently in Japan around 10% of the population is
considered obese, up from just 3% in the 1970's. In
America, that number is 30%, so we have a little ways to
go. However, nearly 33% of all Japanese men aged 40-49 have
a BMI of 25 or more -- that is, they're overweight -- which
is up over 11% in the last 20 years, and this is a worrying
trend. Further, while these people are not clinically
obese, it is highly likely that they will suffer many of
the same symptoms in their latter years.

Indeed, the MHLW reckons that as of last year, about half
of all Japanese men over the age of 40 already either had
symptoms of metabolic syndrome (getting fat; having high
blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes; and a prevalence
to heart attacks, certain types of cancer, and strokes,
etc.) or were developing it, while just 20% of all Japanese
women did so.

Clearly all those McDonald's hamburgers, late nights of
unpaid overtime, and increased work stress have created a
generation of males who are prevalent to Western-style
diseases. The MHLW thinks that the impact on the health care
system will be enormous, essentially doubling the cost of
national health care from JPY32.1trn (US$300bn) in 2004 to
JPY56trn (US$523bn) by 2025. Already, the number of people
suffering from diabetes has jumped more than 50% in the
last 15 years, to over 2m people.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Not only adults, Japanese kids too are getting fatter. A
25-year study done by National Institute of Health and
Nutrition back in 2005 found some obvious and yet
interesting results. Sure enough, between 1976 and 2000,
on average 9- to 11-year old school kids increased their
BMI by around .8 kg/m2 for boys and 0.6 kg/m2 for girls.
Put another way, the prevalence of obese boys increased
by around 11.1% and for girls by around 10.2%. The
surprise finding (or not, if you're the parent of a
competitive and socially aware preteen girl) was that there
was NO increase in obesity for preteen girls living in
metropolitan areas. Ah, the powers of peer group pressure.

Fat kids are of course a major worry in terms of future
patient loading on the nation's health systems. In the UK,
child obesity rates have gone up more than 300% in the
last 20 years, to a point where 10% of all 6-year olds
and 17% of 15-year olds are now classed as obese. A UK
government report reckoned that with 26% of kids being
obese by 2050, the loading on the health system would be a
70% increase in type 2 diabetes, 30% increase in strokes,
and 20% increase in heart disease -- and that's in a
society that's already been on a low-exercise, high
animal fat diet for some generations. We've not seen the
estimates for Japan, but we imagine that the impact will be
similar and just as significant.

Child obesity has triggered commercial opportunities in an
area where you would least expect it -- video games.
Besides McDonalds, most parents blame video games and the
consequent lack of physical activity as being a major
contributor to their kids gaining weight. So one wonders
why they allow their kids to: a) get one (80% of Japanese
kids play video games weekly), and b) walk around during
their free time with their noses stuck in one (58% play for
more than 1-2 hours a day on days off school).

Help is on the way though. It seems that Konami's Dance
Dance Revolution (DDR) and Nintendo's Wii are being used
overseas by schools looking to find modern ways to get
their kids to exercise. In the UK, Wii consoles were
installed in five Worcestershire (good weight-inducing
name, that!) schools and found that kids who used to
dodge phys-ed were lining up at lunchtimes for their chance
on a Wii. After playing even a few minutes of virtual
tennis, baseball, bowling, or golf, their heart
performances were monitored and it was found that the kids
were becoming fitter day by day.

In the States, they have had similar responses from DDR.
See the following link (and article) for an excellent
recount of how popular it is becoming:
Ironically, although DDR and Wii come from Japan, we
imagine it will be some time before any Japanese school
breaks tradition and installs them for student physical

Needless to say, the government has become quite alarmed
about the fatness epidemic, not least of all because it
knows that it can't afford the potential health care
crisis that will emerge as the current generation of baby
boomers and gen-X's retire. The government ran a public
awareness program in 2006 to bring the term metabolic
syndrome into the public's lexicon. Earlier, in 2000 it
created a obesity-targeted strategic health program
called Health Japan 21, which was to decrease the number
of overweight individuals in the nation to less than 15%.
Unfortunately, the latest figures indicate that in fact
over the elapsed period since the start of the program,
the number of overweight men aged 20-60 years old has
actually gone up by 5%... :-(

Marketers, too, are plugging into the elevated
consciousness of consumers worried about their diet health.
Since last year, Natural Lawson and other convenience
chains have been offering low-calorie bento for weight
watchers. Apparently 60% of Natural Lawson's customers for
the bento are now middle-aged men worried about their
metabolic syndrome susceptibility.

But where the real commercial action is, as always, is in
pharmaceuticals and supplements. One company, Kobayashi
Pharmaceutical, launched a metabolic syndrome herbal
medication called Naishitoru85 in March 2006 and it became
an instant best seller. By the end of 2006, it had had
sales of JPY2.9bn, a 600% increase over the original sales
target, and they ran out of the raw ingredients needed to
make the product. Since then, Rohto, Kanebo Trinity, and
others have introduced similar products. Almost all of
these target middle-aged men.

In case you were wondering, apart from supplements, the
herbal medicine market is the only non-prescription drug
medical segment which is expanding, having grown 20% in the
last year alone, to more than JPY40bn (US$373m) in 2007.

On the pharmaceuticals side, Eisai has applied for
permission to market an obesity management drug, KES524,
and Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis Pharma, and Takeda
Pharmaceutical are doing the same. The first drugs will hit
the market from next year. In the USA, GlaxoSmithKline's
non-prescription diet pill "Alli" raked in a record US$156m
in just weeks after its launch in the middle of last year,
so companies here are hopeful that their drugs can bring
similar results. We think they're being a bit optimistic, but
at least there will be a certain amount of first-mover
advantage to whomever gets their product to market


Finishing off, one way to get rid of some of that unwanted
fat is to get yourself along to the Metropolis Glitterball
party on February 14th. We'll definitely be going. We
predict that dancing the night away with your valentine, or
finding one when you get there, you'll burn off enough
calories to bring your BMI back down to the "attractive"
setting! Metropolis has also laid on a fantastic range of
prizes, of which our favorite would be a night for two at
Tokyo's swankiest hotel.

For more information on getting tickets to the Glitterball,
which are only JPY3,500 for men and JPY2,500 for women
(maybe they eat and drink less?), see the Events section
below, or go to the Glitterball web page at

Note that the lead sponsor even has a zero calorie

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Japan money starts flowing to Iraq
- Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya continue to grow
- NEC-Nissan tie up on LiOn batteries
- Carlyle buys Goodwill nursing homes
- Small caps are good buy

-> Japan money starts flowing to Iraq

Back in January of 2007, we predicted that massive amounts
of Japanese funds would flow to Iraq, as Japan's way of
balancing up against the US efforts in that country. We
were a year out, but just this week, the Japan Bank for
International Cooperation (JBIC) said that it has signed a
contract to lend the government of Iraq JPY182.7bn
(US$1.7bn) for infrastructure reconstruction. ***Ed: No
word on whether the loans are tied to Japanese construction
companies, but we suspect not, since those companies are
reluctant to expose their employees to the war zone. Thus,
we assume that the money is going to US construction
companies. Nice, if you're in the club...** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jan 25, 2008)

-> Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya continue to grow

While the LDP and DPJ political parties fight over who will
build more roads in rural Japan, the likelihood is that
whatever does get built won't be used much. This is because
among Japan's 47 prefectures, only 7 of them recorded
population increases, while the rest saw outflows. It seems
that people prefer urban living, and as a result 94,500
people upped stakes and moved to Tokyo, while 32,474 moved
to Kanagawa. The biggest loser was Hokkaido whose
population decreased by 20,267, Aomori dropped by 10,274,
and Nagasaki by 10,064. (Source: TT commentary from, Jan 25, 2008)

-> NEC-Nissan tie up on LiOn batteries

Big moves are afoot in the Japanese lithium-ion battery
industry, a technology sector that is pretty well locked up
by the Japanese, and which will provide the initial power
source for the coming generations of rechargeable electric
cars due off the production lines in 2010. As members of
the old Sumitomo keiritsu, NEC and Nissan have gone back to
their roots and have announced a deepened tie-up to
produce automotive lithium ion batteries. NEC will move its
assets into the existing Automotive Energy Supply Corp.
(AESC), a joint venture established between NEC and Nissan
last year. As the surviving entity, AESC will produce
batteries in mass quantities in 2009. (Source: TT
commentary from, Jan 24, 2008)

-> Carlyle buys Goodwill nursing homes

What happens when the government bans you from doing
business nationwide for 2-4 months? You start having to
dump assets and people as quickly as you can, to pay the
head office operating costs and to have some capital left
to rebuild on. Such is the lot of Goodwill, the nation's
largest temp agency and previously the largest private home
nursing care organization. The company has sold its Bon
Sejour Grand nursing homes for JPY14.6bn (US$136m) to
the Carlyle investment fund. (Source: TT commentary from, Jan 25, 2008)

-> Small caps are good buy

A Dresdner Kleinwort analyst says that Japanese small-cap
stocks are probably among the best deals available in Asia
at present. The analyst, Peter Tasker, points out that the
Mothers stock market has fallen around 78% from its highs
and that 61% of small-cap companies (those with a market
capital of less than JPY100bn (US$938m) are trading below
book value, while 26% have a PE ratio of 10x or less.
***Ed: Of course, analysts have been touting Japan
small-cap stocks for several years, but the market values
of these companies just keep falling. This is largely due
to the conservativeness of Japanese investors and the lack
of business innovation and IR done by the small-cap
companies themselves. That said, we do think that now is
a good time to buy into Japanese small-cap companies. A
number of them are even trading below their breakup value.
While investors may be shunning such companies, we expect
M&A specialists to become more active in approaching such
businesses over the next 12-24 months.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jan 25, 2008)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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------ Metropolis Magazine Valentine`s Glitterball --------

Glitterball is back!
Tokyo's favorite party makes its triumphant return on
February 14, 2008-Valentine's Day. An institution for
nearly a decade, the Metropolis-hosted Glitterball was on
hiatus last year due to the closing of Velfarre nightclub,
but 2008's version promises to be better than ever.

Roppongi hotspot A-life will host over 1,000 V-Day revelers
for a night of eating, drinking, dancing, making friends --
and who knows what else?! Prize drawings, swag bags, and
Tokyo's funnest crowd will make the reborn Glitterball the
highlight of the Tokyo social calendar.


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Title: 'Presentation Zen: How to design and deliver great
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Speaker: Garr Reynolds

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Language: English

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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

-> No corrections or feedback this week.

------------ Translation/Marketing Service ----------------

The J@pan Inc Translation/Marketing team now offers
translation and marketing services for companies to help
them enhance their performance internationally. Our
services include:

- Professional translation
- Catchy copy writing
- Strategic design
- Effective PR
- Direct marketing

Our achievement includes:
- Corporate report translation and desktop publishing
- In-house magazine translation and desktop publishing
- Annual report translation
- Company legal document translation
- Government PR brochure copy writing and design
- DM service targeting senior executives

Contact for more details.


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