Putative contributors to the secular increase in obesity: exploring the roads less traveled

Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Nov;30(11):1585-94. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803326. Epub 2006 Jun 27.


Objective: To investigate plausible contributors to the obesity epidemic beyond the two most commonly suggested factors, reduced physical activity and food marketing practices.

Design: A narrative review of data and published materials that provide evidence of the role of additional putative factors in contributing to the increasing prevalence of obesity.

Data: Information was drawn from ecological and epidemiological studies of humans, animal studies and studies addressing physiological mechanisms, when available.

Results: For at least 10 putative additional explanations for the increased prevalence of obesity over the recent decades, we found supportive (although not conclusive) evidence that in many cases is as compelling as the evidence for more commonly discussed putative explanations.

Conclusion: Undue attention has been devoted to reduced physical activity and food marketing practices as postulated causes for increases in the prevalence of obesity, leading to neglect of other plausible mechanisms and well-intentioned, but potentially ill-founded proposals for reducing obesity rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Temperature