National Consumer Research Institute Predicts Top Five Health Trends for 2012

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The need for better sleep and a growing appetite for liquid energy shots and health-related smartphone apps are among the top consumer health trends expected to make headlines in 2012, according to a leading national research group studying health-related attitudes and behavior in America.

The Values Institute at DGWB, a social science research entity based in Santa Ana, Calif., used observational studies to identify five health and wellness trends that Americans are most likely to embrace in 2012. The list is an extension of the Institute's extensive work in values-based marketing and social entrepreneurialism, as well as a long-term partnership with the international research firm Iconoculture of Minneapolis.

The top five consumer health trends for 2012 are:

1. America's Infatuation with Boosting Energy... Naturally. The recent surge in the popularity of liquid energy shots like Red Bull, Monster and 5-Hour Energy should continue. Far beyond a Millennial-only trend, these products are increasingly popular with seniors, as evidenced by 5-Hour's partnership with John Ratzenberger. There is a potential for a backlash as health-seeking consumers look for the same boost from 100% natural sources with ingredients they can pronounce. These could include green tea extract, vitamins, whole grains, raw foods like bananas and dates and specifically designed products like Jamba Juice and V8 Energy Shots.

2. Sleepless in America... Especially Among Women. Sleep may be to this decade what fitness and diet were to the 1980s and 1990s. Faced with new evidence linking inadequate sleep with weight gain, high blood pressure, depression and lowered immunity, more consumers will connect health and shut-eye in 2012. Seventy-six percent of Americans want to improve the quantity and quality of the sleep they get, while the National Sleep Foundation says that two-thirds of all women have regular sleep problems. Globally, sleep deprivation affects the quality of life of 45% of the world's population, according to the World Association of Sleep Medicine.

3. The Rise of the "Flexitarians." While the U.S. vegetarian/vegan population will remain small, more consumers in 2012 will become "Flexitarians," those that consciously reduce their meat intake for health reasons but still occasionally enjoy