Simulation models of obesity: a review of the literature and implications for research and policy

Obes Rev. 2011 May;12(5):378-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00804.x. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


Simulation models (SMs) combine information from a variety of sources to provide a useful tool for examining how the effects of obesity unfold over time and impact population health. SMs can aid in the understanding of the complex interaction of the drivers of diet and activity and their relation to health outcomes. As emphasized in a recently released report of the Institute or Medicine, SMs can be especially useful for considering the potential impact of an array of policies that will be required to tackle the obesity problem. The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of existing SMs for obesity. First, a background section introduces the different types of models, explains how models are constructed, shows the utility of SMs and discusses their strengths and weaknesses. Using these typologies, we then briefly review extant obesity SMs. We categorize these models according to their focus: health and economic outcomes, trends in obesity as a function of past trends, physiologically based behavioural models, environmental contributors to obesity and policy interventions. Finally, we suggest directions for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Computer Simulation
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*