Health Trends for 2004

Find out what's ahead in food, fitness, and even wrinkle-free faces.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
From the WebMD Archives

Low-Carb Cop Out?
Beyond Botox: The New Wrinkle Fighters
Express Workouts Hit the Gym

Those are just a few of the health stories likely to make headlines in 2004. But how will these trends affect you?

WebMD asked the experts to dust off their crystal balls and break down the hype behind their top picks for health trends to watch in 2004.

Food Fads

The low-carb craze that struck fear into the hearts of pasta lovers in 2003 shows no signs of slowing in 2004, say diet and nutrition experts.

More restaurant chains are expected join Subway, KFC, T.G.I. Friday's, and others in expanding their "Atkins friendly" menu offerings. Food manufacturers will also stock supermarket shelves with a growing number of low-carb or reduced-carbohydrate versions of popular items like beer, snack foods, and desserts.

But researchers say they're eagerly awaiting the release of new studies that will address the long-term safety and effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins. So far, studies have only looked at these issues in the short term.

"Hopefully we'll see some longer-term studies in 2004," says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy at The Cleveland Clinic. "Everyone is anxious, especially dietitians, to see those results."

Moore says that right now the marketing of low-carb diets is way ahead of the science to support them. Unless scientific research can show that the diets are safe and effective in promoting long-term weight loss, she says the low-carb craze of 2003 may turn out to be just another food fad like the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s.

Other food trends on the horizon in 2004 include:

  • Trans fats. As the 2006 deadline for including information on trans fats (trans fatty acids) on the Nutrition Facts food label approaches, snack and processed food manufacturers will seek to reformulate their products to lower the content of this artery-clogging fat.
  • Healthier crops. The soy industry is investigating new crops that may eliminate the need for hydrogenation (the process that turns healthy liquid vegetable fats into unhealthy solid ones) in creating shelf-stable baked and processed foods.
  • Functional foods. Adding calcium to orange juice was just the beginning. Experts predict more foods will be fortified with additional ingredients, such as plant stanol esters, natural substances that have been shown to help promote healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Bad news for "grab bags." FDA officials are considering forcing companies to base nutritional information for food and beverages on the container size rather than serving size to give consumers a better idea of how many calories they're getting in a bag of chips or 2 liter bottle of soda.
  • Meal solutions. "People want a home-cooked meal, but they want it prepared for them," says Nelda Mercer, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She says supermarkets will continue to respond to the call for quick-fix meal solutions with expanded offerings.

Beyond Botox: Plastic Surgery Trends

Fighting the effects of aging will get a little easier in 2004 thanks to a new generation of injectable wrinkle fillers that help erase wrinkles without surgery.

"The trends are toward more minimally invasive to noninvasive procedures," says Rod Rohrich, MD, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "The first rendition of that was Botox, and now the new revolutionary fillers, the hyaluronic acids like Restylane, are being approved."

In December 2003, the FDA approved Restylane for treating moderate to severe wrinkles around the nose and mouth. The gel is the third injectable wrinkle treatment to gain approval from the agency. Botox (botulinum toxin) is approved for treating wrinkles between the eyebrows, and collagen injections are approved for filling other types of wrinkles and skin imperfections.

"We're seeing patients wanting a lot more done at younger age but also wanting to minimize or have absolutely no down time, and Botox and Restylane allow you to do that," Rohrich tells WebMD.

Rohrich says another type of plastic surgery sure to grow in popularity in 2004 is body shaping and contouring using new minimally invasive techniques. For example, a nonsurgical method of performing liposuction using ultrasonic waves is currently under consideration for FDA approval.

The dramatic rise in the number of gastric bypass surgeries among the obese is also creating a heightened demand for these reshaping procedures following drastic weight loss.

Faster Fitness

When it comes to fitness, experts predict that in 2004 workouts will get faster but more effective by incorporating a variety of mind and body techniques to provide the most benefits in the least amount of time.

According to the American Council on Exercise, gyms will continue to respond to the needs of busy Americans by offering efficient workouts and exercise programs that blend elements of Pilates and yoga for a holistic approach to physical fitness.

Other fitness trends to watch in 2004 include:

  • Functional fitness. Rather than working on muscle groups in isolation, functional fitness will focus on exercising and strengthening several muscles and joints together to help people perform their daily activities with less pain and discomfort.
  • Get a coach. Lifestyle and performance coaching will become more popular as the Internet makes these services more affordable.
  • More places for help. Health-care providers and companies will provide and partially subsidize preventive lifestyle programs, such as providing web sites for wellness information, risk assessment, fitness calculators, how to contact a fitness professional, and other services.
  • Smarter equipment. Manufacturers will offer equipment that provides feedback on everything from lactic acid production (a compound released during exercise) to preparing for a major athletic event like a marathon.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Rod Rohrich, MD, president, American Society of Plastic Surgeons; chairman, department of plastic surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Nelda Mercer, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director, nutrition therapy, The Cleveland Clinic. American Council on Exercise. American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. WebMD Medical News: "Latest Plastic Surgery Trends and Stats." WebMD Medical News: "FDA Approves New Wrinkle Filler."

© 2004 WebMD, Inc. All rights Reserved. View privacy policy and trust info