Obesity and Health

feet on a bathroom scale

Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and other chronic diseases. Unfortunately, obesity has more than doubled across the globe since 1980, according to the World Health Organization.

RAND Health studies the complex interplay of diet, exercise, genetics, medical conditions, and socioeconomic factors in this global public health problem, with a special focus on childhood obesity.

From the RAND Blog

  • Always Hungry? Here's the Real Reason Why

    Aug 15, 2014

    The problem of obesity cannot be attributed to a single dietary or physiological factor, like too much sugar, too much fat, or even factors like viruses, bacteria, and endocrine disrupters. The real problem is that Americans now live in a food swamp and there is just too much food easily available.

  • What's Behind the Obesity Epidemic? Easily Accessible Food, and Lots of It

    Jul 22, 2014

    That no group is immune to rising obesity rates suggests that universal environmental factors are driving the trend. The clearest change concerns food availability and cost.

Latest Research and Publications

  • U.S. Obesity Epidemic Affecting All Segments of the Nation

    While some differences in weight are evident between groups based on race and education levels, all Americans have been getting fatter at about the same rate for 25 years, even with increases in leisure time, availability of fruit and vegetables, and exercise.

  • The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic—And How We Can End It

    With more than 150 million Americans overweight or obese and an estimated 1.5 billion affected globally, obesity is the world's most pressing public health crisis. In A Big Fat Crisis, RAND's Deborah Cohen unpacks the hidden causes of the obesity epidemic and outlines concrete strategies for defeating it once and for all.

  • U.S. Chain Restaurants and Nutrition: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

    Restaurants make changes to their menus regularly, but they may make both healthy and unhealthy changes simultaneously. Overall, there were no meaningful changes in average energy or sodium content in main entrées from top U.S. restaurant chains between 2010 and 2011.

Research in Progress

  • Diet and Nutrition

    Examining the role of diet and nutrition in the obesity epidemic, including a natural experiment involving neighborhood supermarkets and food availability
  • Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

    Assessing the influence of healthy eating and physical activity on obesity, including the effects of green space and physical activity promotion on health in low-income neighborhoods
  • Neighborhood Influences on Obesity

    Studies of the relationship between neighborhood characteristics and obesity—and related health problems, such as high blood pressure

Last updated: August 2013