Should obesity be the main game? Or do we need an environmental makeover to combat the inflammatory and chronic disease epidemics?
Egger, G & Dixon, J 2009, 'Should obesity be the main game? Or do we need an environmental makeover to combat the inflammatory and chronic disease epidemics?', Obesity Reviews, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 237-249.
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There is a link between obesity and chronic disease. However, the causal relationship is complicated. Some forms of obesity are associated with low-level systemic inflammation, which is linked to disease. But lifestyle behaviours that may not necessarily cause obesity (poor diet, inadequate sleep, smoking, etc.) can independently cause inflammation and consequent disease. It is proposed here that it is the environment driving modern lifestyles, which is the true cause of much chronic disease, rather than obesity per se, and that obesity may be a marker of environmental derangement, rather than the primary cause of the problem. Attempts to clinically manage obesity alone on a large scale are therefore unlikely to be successful at the population level without significant lifestyle or environmental change. Environmental factors influencing obesity and health have now also been implicated in ecological perturbations such as climate change, through the shift to positive energy balance in humans caused by the exponential use of fossil fuels in such areas as transport, and consequent rises in carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It is proposed therefore that a more policy-based approach to dealing with obesity, which attacks the common causes of both biological and ecological ‘dis-ease’, could have positive effects on both chronic disease and environmental problems. A plea is thus made for a greater health input into discussions on environmental regulation for chronic disease control, as well as climate change.