Rising and epidemic rates of obesity in many parts of the world are leading to increased suffering and economic stress from diverting health care resources to treating a variety of serious, but preventable, chronic diseases etiologically linked to obesity, particularly type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. Despite decades of research into the causes of the obesity pandemic, we seem to be no nearer to a solution now than when the rise in body weights was first chronicled decades ago. The case is made that impediments to a clear understanding of the nature of the problem occur at many levels. These obstacles begin with defining obesity and include lax application of scientific standards of review, tenuous assumption making, flawed measurement and other methods, constrained discourse limiting examination of alternative explanations of cause, and policies that determine funding priorities. These issues constrain creativity and stifle expansive thinking that could otherwise advance the field in preventing and treating obesity and its complications. Suggestions are made to create a climate of open exchange of ideas and redirection of policies that can remove the barriers that prevent us from making material progress in solving a pressing major public health problem of the early 21st century.
Copyright © 2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.