Obesity: from the agricultural revolution to the contemporary pediatric epidemic

Congenit Heart Dis. Mar-Apr 2012;7(2):189-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-0803.2011.00618.x. Epub 2012 Feb 3.


Obesity is pandemic in Western society. Currently, approximately 100 million Americans are overweight (body mass index > 25 kg/m2) or obese (body mass index > 30 kg/m2). The pandemic is largely attributable to the relatively recent (from an evolutionary perspective) adoption of a sedentary lifestyle, coupled with the high availability of foods with high caloric content in Western cultures. These factors superimposed on dated genotypes have given rise to the global obesity epidemic. Over the past two decades, the discovery of leptin and other new molecules (e.g., adiponectin, resistin, ghrelin) has shed significant light on the pathophysiologic mechanisms of obesity-related morbidities, many of which became apparent through human epidemiologic studies during the last half of the 20th century. Of high concern for modern Western societies is the pediatric obesity epidemic, which stands to cripple Western cultures, both literally and financially in terms of health care costs and exhaustion of finite medical resources. The prevalence of childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1960s, and 12.5 million (~17%) of children and teenagers are obese in the United States today. The rate of increasing prevalence of childhood obesity is staggering, and the collective efforts of the pediatric medical community and scientists are essential for battling the epidemic.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data
  • Agriculture / trends*
  • Child
  • Energy Intake
  • Epidemics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Leptin / genetics
  • Life Style
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Morbidity
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Western World


  • Leptin