Environmental contributions to the obesity epidemic

Science. 1998 May 29;280(5368):1371-4. doi: 10.1126/science.280.5368.1371.


The current epidemic of obesity is caused largely by an environment that promotes excessive food intake and discourages physical activity. Although humans have evolved excellent physiological mechanisms to defend against body weight loss, they have only weak physiological mechanisms to defend against body weight gain when food is abundant. Control of portion size, consumption of a diet low in fat and energy density, and regular physical activity are behaviors that protect against obesity, but it is becoming difficult to adopt and maintain these behaviors in the current environment. Because obesity is difficult to treat, public health efforts need to be directed toward prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Weight
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia* / etiology
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / prevention & control


  • Dietary Fats