The obesity epidemic: Challenges, health initiatives, and implications for gastroenterologists

Ryan T. Hurt, Christopher Kulisek, Laura A. Buchanan, Stephen A. McClave

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Obesity is the next major epidemiologic challenge facing today's doctors, with the annual allocation of healthcare resources for the disease and related comorbidities projected to exceed $150 billion in the United States. The incidence of obesity has risen in the United States over the past 30 years; 60% of adults are currently either obese or overweight. Obesity is associated with a higher incidence of a number of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Consumption of fast food, trans fatty acids (TFAs), and fructose - combined with increasing portion sizes and decreased physical activity - has been implicated as a potential contributing factor in the obesity crisis. The use of body mass index (BMI) alone is of limited utility for predicting adverse cardiovascular outcomes, but the utility of this measure may be strengthened when combined with waist circumference and other anthropomorphic measurements. Certain public health initiatives have helped to identify and reduce some of the factors contributing to obesity. In New York City and Denmark, for example, such initiatives have succeeded in passing legislation to reduce or remove TFAs from residents' diets. The obesity epidemic will likely change practice for gastroenterologists, as shifts will be seen in the incidence of obesity-related gastrointestinal disorders, disease severity, and the nature of comorbidities. The experience gained with previous epidemiologic problems such as smoking should help involved parties to expand needed health initiatives and increase the likelihood of preventing future generations from suffering the consequences of obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)780-792
Number of pages13
JournalGastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • Body mass index
  • Central adiposity
  • Exercise
  • Health initiatives
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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