According to a recent study, almost 71 million Americans are currently on a diet. This is the highest number of dieters in the past 15 years.

Conducted by the Calorie Control Council, a non-profit international association of manufacturers of light foods and beverages, the survey looked at 1,200 Americans ages 18 and older.

The council also asked leading experts in obesity, nutrition and weight management what the future will hold for those trying to shed pounds in 2005. Look for them in your club.

Dr. John Foreyt, professor in the department of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, noted that when it comes to carbs, the craze might have hit its peak. He suspects that we will see a downward trend in this area. Some reports show that purchasing of reduced-carbohydrate products has leveled. Similarly, the Council’s 2004 consumer survey indicated that among consumers cutting back on foods high in carbohydrates, 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed it is also important to reduce calories.

Similarly, Dr. Rebecca Reeves, president elect of the American Dietetic Association, believed that the new Food & Drug Administration (FDA) campaign “Calories Count” to tackle obesity is a good one. However, the marketing of this campaign (as well as the education of consumers regarding the importance of controlling calories for weight management) will be important in order for it to succeed and for consumers to take the messages to heart, she said.

Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University Dr. Barbara Rolls, who recently presented new research at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity and is author of “The Volumetrics Eating Plan: Techniques and Recipes for Feeling Fuller on Fewer Calories,” said that “calorie density” will be one of the hot buzzwords in 2005. Rolls’ research on calorie density indicates that by eating more nutrient-dense foods that are filling and replacing high calorie foods with lower-calorie foods (e.g., incorporating more fruits and vegetables and using reduced-fat and lower-calorie versions) as well as eating smaller portions of high-calorie foods, approximately 800 calories can be eliminated from the typical daily diet without people even realizing they’re eating fewer calories.

Both Foreyt and Reeves predict that the number of overweight children will continue to rise. However, many steps will be taken to help reverse this trend such as the reintroduction of mandatory physical education in schools, and fast food venues offering a variety of healthier selections. Reducing portion sizes, such as the new “100 Calorie Packs” from Nabisco and the mini-sized cans of soda will also continue.

Rolls, too, believes that the trend for healthier options available at restaurants will continue. “If consumers buy these other options, restaurants will continue to offer them. Thus, we need to educate consumers on making better choices when dining out,” noted Rolls.

According to Reeves, using a pedometer for “counting steps” each day will continue to be a popular way for adults and children to increase their physical activity -- something that has been on the decline for many years.