Diet, nutrition and the prevention of excess weight gain and obesity

Public Health Nutr. 2004 Feb;7(1A):123-46. doi: 10.1079/phn2003585.


Objectives: To review the evidence on the diet and nutrition causes of obesity and to recommend strategies to reduce obesity prevalence.

Design: The evidence for potential aetiological factors and strategies to reduce obesity prevalence was reviewed, and recommendations for public health action, population nutrition goals and further research were made.

Results: Protective factors against obesity were considered to be: regular physical activity (convincing); a high intake of dietary non-starch polysaccharides (NSP)/fibre (convincing); supportive home and school environments for children (probable); and breastfeeding (probable). Risk factors for obesity were considered to be sedentary lifestyles (convincing); a high intake of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods (convincing); heavy marketing of energy-dense foods and fast food outlets (probable); sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit juices (probable); adverse social and economic conditions-developed countries, especially in women (probable). A broad range of strategies were recommended to reduce obesity prevalence including: influencing the food supply to make healthy choices easier; reducing the marketing of energy dense foods and beverages to children; influencing urban environments and transport systems to promote physical activity; developing community-wide programmes in multiple settings; increased communications about healthy eating and physical activity; and improved health services to promote breastfeeding and manage currently overweight or obese people.

Conclusions: The increasing prevalence of obesity is a major health threat in both low- and high income countries. Comprehensive programmes will be needed to turn the epidemic around.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages
  • Breast Feeding
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain / physiology


  • Dietary Fats