, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 673–689 | Cite as

The Epidemiology of Obesity: A Big Picture

  • Adela HrubyEmail author
  • Frank B. Hu
Review Article


The epidemic of overweight and obesity presents a major challenge to chronic disease prevention and health across the life course around the world. Fueled by economic growth, industrialization, mechanized transport, urbanization, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and a nutritional transition to processed foods and high-calorie diets over the last 30 years, many countries have witnessed the prevalence of obesity in its citizens double and even quadruple. A rising prevalence of childhood obesity, in particular, forebodes a staggering burden of disease in individuals and healthcare systems in the decades to come. A complex, multifactorial disease, with genetic, behavioral, socioeconomic, and environmental origins, obesity raises the risk of debilitating morbidity and mortality. Relying primarily on epidemiologic evidence published within the last decade, this non-exhaustive review discusses the extent of the obesity epidemic, its risk factors—known and novel—, sequelae, and economic impact across the globe.


Obesity Childhood Obesity Excess Body Weight Fast Food Restaurant Obesity Risk 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors declare no conflict of interest. AH is supported by an American Diabetes Association Mentor-Based Postdoctoral Fellowship award. FH is supported by NIH grants DK51158, HL60712, P30 DK46200, and U54CA155626. The authors broadly thank the researchers in this field for their consistent and tireless work in illuminating the etiology, sequelae, and solutions to this complex condition.

Author Contributions

AH wrote the first draft of the paper. AH and FH contributed to the writing and revised and edited the paper. AH is the final guarantor of this work and takes full responsibility for its contents. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NutritionHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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