Modeling US adult obesity trends: a system dynamics model for estimating energy imbalance gap

Am J Public Health. 2014 Jul;104(7):1230-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301882. Epub 2014 May 15.


Objectives: We present a system dynamics model that quantifies the energy imbalance gap responsible for the US adult obesity epidemic among gender and racial subpopulations.

Methods: We divided the adult population into gender-race/ethnicity subpopulations and body mass index (BMI) classes. We defined transition rates between classes as a function of metabolic dynamics of individuals within each class. We estimated energy intake in each BMI class within the past 4 decades as a multiplication of the equilibrium energy intake of individuals in that class. Through calibration, we estimated the energy gap multiplier for each gender-race-BMI group by matching simulated BMI distributions for each subpopulation against national data with maximum likelihood estimation.

Results: No subpopulation showed a negative or zero energy gap, suggesting that the obesity epidemic continues to worsen, albeit at a slower rate. In the past decade the epidemic has slowed for non-Hispanic Whites, is starting to slow for non-Hispanic Blacks, but continues to accelerate among Mexican Americans.

Conclusions: The differential energy balance gap across subpopulations and over time suggests that interventions should be tailored to subpopulations' needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology