Weight Watchers sees growth in slimming men

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David Kirchhoff, chief executive officer of Weight Watchers International Inc, shed 35 pounds (15.9 kg) with his company's program and sees a growth opportunity in helping more men shrink their waistlines.

"Dealing with weight was not a thing a lot of guys thought about, frankly, until fairly recently," Kirchhoff said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago on Monday.

"Men are as likely to be measured overweight or measured clinically obese as women. The ill-health effects that come with that are the same for men as for women, yet women are twice as likely to do something about it," said Kirchhoff, who attended his first Weight Watchers meeting in New York in 2000 and remains svelte.

Men historically have accounted for less than 10 percent of Weight Watchers' business and the company last year signed up former NBA star Charles Barkley as its first male spokesman in a bid to drive that higher.

Rival Nutrisystem Inc, whose pitchmen include legendary football player Terry Bradshaw, aggressively markets to men on sports channels and other mainstream media.

Roughly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Excess body weight contributes to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other costly chronic diseases.

Public health officials have warned that obesity is fast replacing tobacco as the single most important preventable cause of costly chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.