Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? A report of the joint task force of the american society for nutrition, institute of food technologists, and international food information council.
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The continued rise in obesity rates in most countries suggests that current programs and initiatives designed to combat obesity have not been successful in reversing the obesity epidemic. Obesity rates are increasing because of a gradual weight gain in most populations. There has been little long-term success in treating established obesity through lifestyle change, perhaps because of the large permanent changes in diet and physical activity required to keep weight off. An alternative strategy to address the obesity epidemic involves not focusing on weight loss but promoting small changes in diet and physical activity to initially prevent further weight gain. With the use of this strategy, obesity rates could first be stabilized in most populations and then, over time, decrease gradually. Supporting data show that small reductions in conscious energy intake and increases in physical activity can reduce excessive weight gain. The opportunity exists to use the small-changes approach to bring different stakeholders together to create a national initiative to address the global epidemic of obesity. The Joint Task Force of the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council believe that a small-changes framework, aimed at helping people make conscious small changes in lifestyle behaviors, in combination with efforts by the private sector to gradually "ratchet down" some of the environmental factors that have contributed to excessive energy intake and the declining rates of physical activity, can be successful in reducing obesity rates. Such an initiative would benefit from the support of educational and social marketing campaigns developed with governmental input and support.