The levelling off of the obesity epidemic since the year 1999--a review of evidence and perspectives

Obes Rev. 2010 Dec;11(12):835-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00810.x. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


The purpose was to investigate a possible levelling off in the obesity epidemic, by systematically reviewing literature and web-based sources. Eligible studies and data sources were required to have at least two measures of obesity prevalence since 1999. A literature and Internet search resulted in 52 studies from 25 different countries. The findings supported an overall levelling off of the epidemic in children and adolescents from Australia, Europe, Japan and the USA. In adults, stability was found in the USA, while increases were still observed in some European and Asian countries. Some evidence for heterogeneity in the obesity trends across socioeconomic status (SES) groups was found. The levelling off was less evident in the lower-SES groups. No obvious differences between genders were identified. We discussed potential explanations for a levelling off and the utility of investigating obesity trends to identify the driving forces behind the epidemic. It is important to emphasize that the levelling off is not tantamount to calling off the epidemic. Additionally, it is worthwhile to keep in mind that previous stable phases have been followed by further increases in the prevalence of obesity. Therefore, research into the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity should remain a priority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult