Causes of Obesity – The Bigger Picture

For health care professionals who care for individuals with obesity and their families, health services are designed to improve the health and well-being at the patient and/or family level. However…

from a public health perspective, there are a number of bigger picture factors that play fundamental roles in why overweight and obesity have increased at the population level since the 1970s.

So, what’s changed over the past few decades to influence the weight status of populations? In a recent commentary in The Lancet (Public Health), Rodgers et al. (2018) used nationally-representative data from the US to show that increasing overweight and obesity coincided with rapid changes in food production, food marketing, and portion sizes.

While this argument doesn’t demonstrate cause-and-effect, it does help to exclude some individual level factors (e.g., motivation to change, genetics) that are unlikely to have changed over this time period. This research also provides a stark reminder of how challenging it is for individuals and families to make healthy lifestyle changes within a food system designed to optimize production and consumption.


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