Environmental factors in the development of obesity
Environmental factors and social forces play a significant role in the development of obesity, especially among certain sub-groups of the population.
Those that raise energy intake include targeted advertisements for, and low price of high-energy density foods; marketing of larger portion sizes; and fewer meals being prepared or eaten in the home with subsequent consumption of more fast-foods and convenience foods. The technological evolution of the physical environment has perpetuated the decline of physical activity and energy expenditure.
Among the contributing factors boosting energy intake is the low-cost of highly energetic food, the marketing of larger servings, and the decrease of home-made or home-served meals that results in an increase of fast-food and processed pre-cooked food consumption. Agri-food includes the agriculture, food processing, distribution/marketing, and restaurant industries, and school cafeterias.
The man-built environment includes park development, active transport access, outdoor cycling itineraries, building code, land-use and urban planning, architecture, transportation systems, etc. Technological development of the physical environment results in a widespread decrease of physical activity and energy expenditure.
Our sociocultural environment faced many changes in the last twenty years. Advertisement is ubiquitous and crucially alters our self-perception and relation to food. The sociocultural sector includes media, advertising, fashion and body care industries, work-family balance, etc.
Understanding the effects of environmental interventions and public policies on feeding and physical activity habits is essential to re-target our efforts to battle against obesity. The solution in fighting these dynamic forces resides in the creation of supportive environments at the population level.