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Diet, nutrition and the prevention of excess weight gain and obesity

  • Swinburn BA (a1), Caterson I (a2), Seidell JC (a3) and James WPT (a4)

To review the evidence on the diet and nutrition causes of obesity and to recommend strategies to reduce obesity prevalence.


The evidence for potential aetiological factors and strategies to reduce obesity prevalence was reviewed, and recommendations for public health action, population nutrition goals and further research were made.


Protective factors against obesity were considered to be: regular physical activity (convincing); a high intake of dietary non-starch polysaccharides (NSP)/fibre (convincing); supportive home and school environments for children (probable); and breastfeeding (probable). Risk factors for obesity were considered to be sedentary lifestyles (convincing); a high intake of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods (convincing); heavy marketing of energy-dense foods and fast food outlets (probable); sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit juices (probable); adverse social and economic conditions—developed countries, especially in women (probable).

A broad range of strategies were recommended to reduce obesity prevalence including: influencing the food supply to make healthy choices easier; reducing the marketing of energy dense foods and beverages to children; influencing urban environments and transport systems to promote physical activity; developing community-wide programmes in multiple settings; increased communications about healthy eating and physical activity; and improved health services to promote breastfeeding and manage currently overweight or obese people.


The increasing prevalence of obesity is a major health threat in both low- and high income countries. Comprehensive programmes will be needed to turn the epidemic around.

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