Factors of obesity

The main contributing factors can be classified into environmental and societal (external) and genetic (internal).1-4

Social and environmental factors influencing obesity2,5

Behaviors conducive to developing obesity can be influenced by societal and environmental factors beyond an individual’s control. For example, availability of healthful food at reasonable prices may influence food purchasing behaviors.

Additionally, availability of recreational spaces may influence a person’s ability or choice to engage in physical activity. Pleasure derived from food palatability can be a powerful driver of overconsumption behavior that can result in an energy imbalance favoring weight gain.

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Industrialization causes changes in societal structures, such as food production, food abundance, a decrease in energy expenditure because of sedentary lifestyles, access to modern education, and changes in the role of women2,5

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Cultural influences

Cultural influences affect the intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat, increase in sedentary lifestyles, and attitudes toward body image2,5

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High socioeconomic status is negatively correlated with obesity in developed countries, but positively correlated in developing countries2,5

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Societal changes

Societal changes impact behaviors that contribute to weight gain, such as overeating and reduced physical activity2,5

Genetic factors of obesity

A person’s genetics may determine the extent to which external or environmental factors impact their weight.1

  • Studies have shown that 40% to 70% of interindividual differences in BMI are explained by genetic factors1
Weight and genetics

Metabolic adaptation makes weight management difficult


Obesity is a relapsing disease



1. Hebebrand J, Hinney A, Knoll N, Volckmar AL, Scherag A. Molecular genetic aspects of weight regulation. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2013;110(19):338-344.

2. World Health Organization. Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic: report of a WHO consultation. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1999. WHO Technical Report Series 894.

3. Lam YY, Ravussin E. Analysis of energy metabolism in humans: a review of methodologies. Mol Metab. 2016;5(11):1057-1071.

4. Sumithran P, Prendergast LA, Delbridge E, et al. Long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. N Engl J Med. 2011;365(17):1597-1604.

5. Affenito SG, Franko DL, Striegel-Moore RH, Thompson D. Behavioral determinants of obesity: research findings and policy implications. J Obes. 2012;2012:150732.


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