Research Chair on Obesity Centre de recherche Institut Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie du QuébecUniversité Laval
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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.

Agri-Food Environment

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.

Built Environment

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.

Sociocultural Environment

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.

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