06 February 2006 Dietary and lifestyle changes over the last three decades have resulted in an obesity epidemic in much of the developed world. On 19 October 2005 the Royal Society held a policy seminar in London which bought together scientists and policy makers to discuss the role of science in this important area of public health. The report of the meeting concluded that understanding the scientific basis of obesity will help to identify mechanisms to manage and treat obesity more effectively, either by improving diet, by increasing physical activity, or by using medicines. Innovative approaches to research are required, particularly in areas such as accurate assessment of energy balance, food intake, physical activity and body composition.
Public health policy to curtail the spread of obesity is increasingly considering the impact of wider environmental factors such as lifestyle and the built environment. Research in this area is poorly developed and needs further support.