Behavioural Biology and Obesity

Trenton G. Smith

in Insecurity, Inequality, and Obesity in Affluent Societies

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780197264980
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754135 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Behavioural Biology and Obesity

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While conventional wisdom holds that excessive body weight is the product of some combination of a high-calorie diet and a sedentary lifestyle, public health measures aimed at these factors have been met with only limited success. This chapter considers the possibility that obesity might be better understood in terms of the biologist's notion that humans and other animals evolved the ability to store body fat as an optimal response to the presence of starvation risk. Evidence from a broad array of disciplines is consistent with this view, including the neuroendocrinology of energy homeostasis, parallels between human and animal fattening behaviour, the effect of stress on dietary intake, population-level studies of the impact of economic insecurity on body weight and international variation in obesity rates.

Keywords: obesity; biology; high-calorie diet; starvation risk; stress; population-level studies; economic insecurity; international variations

Chapter.  4702 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Health, Illness, and Medicine

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