Early start needed to tackle obesity

Sir Peter Gluckman and several colleagues have called for policy makers to take a long view of the causes of obesity and related diseases.

In a commentary article published in the international journal Science Translational Medicine, Sir Peter and associates outline the need for a developmental perspective in curbing obesity rates, particularly in developing countries. The authors stated that although diet and exercise are obvious interventions, there is myriad of biological and cultural factors that need to be accounted for.

Although best known as the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter is also a researcher at the Liggins Institute at Auckland University. His research has recently shown that maternal diet during pregnancy can have an impact on a child’s weight gain later in life.

In the article the authors warn, “Focusing on adults alone will have limited effects, especially in developing and recently developed societies, and a longer-term perspective is needed. The origins of both obesity and its associated diseases are multidimensional, but it is clear that one’s sensitivity to the adverse effects of an obesogenic environment is dependent on both genetic factors and-of particular importance in terms of prevention-developmental exposures.”

Media Coverage:

A press release from the Liggins Institute is available here.

Otago Daily Times: Paper challenges obesity problem

NewsTalk ZB: Obesity battle being lost

New Zealand Herald: ‘Biology, culture play big part in obesity’

An excerpt:

Obesity policy-makers place too much emphasis on exercise, smoking and weight loss, and not on complex biological and cultural factors, says a New Zealand-led study.

The commentary paper co-authored by the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Professor Peter Gluckman urges politicians and scientists to see the bigger picture in their attempts to stem rising epidemics of obesity worldwide.

The paper, which is aimed at the treatment of obesity in poorer countries, is published today in the journal Science Translational Magazine.

Professor Gluckman and colleagues wrote that wealthy nations’ failure to lower obesity rates and its related disorders was partly due to the focus on changing adult life-styles – banning tobacco, and encouraging exercise and weight loss.

The authors emphasised that this limited prescription must not be naively passed on to poorer countries, which are experiencing alarming increases in obesity.