In this chapter, I will provide a brief introduction to the history of obesity from the perspective of my interest in the twentieth century history of nutrition science and its interactions with public health policy. I begin by explaining why, despite being recognised since antiquity, obesity is best considered as a modern phenomenon. I will describe the ways in which contemporary knowledge about the extent, and negative effects on health, of excess bodyweight (obesity and overweight) derive from American and British research into the causes of coronary heart disease. I continue by outlining the development the body mass index (BMI) to both define and measure rates of obesity, and how this information was used to map its increasing prevalence. I argue that the framing of obesity as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization in 2000 involved the development of a new, environmental, model of the condition that now co-exists alongside older individual models. Finally, I conclude with some thought of what the history of medicine can contribute to debates about appropriate responses to rising rates of obesity and overweight.
|Title of host publication||The Routledge Handbook of Critical Obesity Studies|
|Editors||Michael Gard, Darren Powell, José Tenorio|
|Publication status||Published - 31 Dec 2021|
- coronary heart disease
- risk factors
- history of medicine
- public health policy