The health consequences of obesity among children and adults are well recognized, ranging from early cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease, diabetes and even adverse mental health consequences. As the developed world becomes increasingly obese (for example, data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the United States suggest that 18.1% of children 2-19 years old are obese while another 16.1% are overweight), the economic consequences of this epidemic are already being appreciated.

The accompanying articles in this issue illustrates the gravity of the problem, especially in the context of growing concern about accelerating health care costs as a percentage of gross domestic products. While effective interventions remain wanting, these studies suggest that successful efforts to improve dietary balance and eliminate other risk factors for obesity and overweight will save much more in health care costs than the cost of the intervention.

Indeed, a recent article published in Health Affairs suggested that a $2 billion annual investment in childhood obesity prevention would be cost-effective if it could produce even a modest reduction in the number of children who were obese. These articles should redouble our efforts to identify opportunities for prevention of obesity in childhood, in pregnancy (especially because of multigenerational effects) and in adulthood.

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