Improving diet and physical activity to reduce population prevalence of overweight and obesity: an overview of current evidence

Prev Med. 2014 May:62:167-78. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.02.008. Epub 2014 Feb 15.


Objective: The aim of this study is to provide an overview of interventions to reduce or prevent overweight or obesity and improve diet or physical activity.

Methods: A review of meta-analyses and/or systematic reviews of these interventions in any setting or age group were conducted. Narrative systematic reviews were included for intervention categories with limited meta-analyses available. Summary measures including weighted mean difference, standardised mean difference, and I-squared, were examined.

Results: A total of 60 meta-analyses and 23 systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria. Dietary interventions and multi-component interventions targeting overweight and obesity appeared to have the greatest effects, particularly in comparison with workplace or technology or internet-based interventions. Pharmaceutical and surgical interventions produced favourable results for specific population sub-groups (i.e. morbidly obese). Population-wide strategies such as policy interventions have not been widely analysed. The effectiveness of the interventions to assist in maintaining behaviour or weight change remains unclear.

Conclusions: Various individually targeted interventions were shown to reduce body weight, although effect sizes were typically modest, and the durability of effects has been questioned. New approaches to evaluating population-based interventions, such as taxes and regulation, are recommended. Future research modelling the long-term effects of interventions across the lifespan would also be beneficial.

Keywords: Diet; Interventions; Obesity; Physical activity; Review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods
  • Diet*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Promotion / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Overweight / drug therapy
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / prevention & control*
  • Overweight / surgery
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Weight Reduction Programs
  • Workplace