Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Internet Explorer is no longer a supported browser.

This website may not display properly with Internet Explorer. For the best experience, please use a more recent browser such as the latest versions of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and/or Mozilla Firefox. Thank you.

Your Environment. Your Health.



doctor measuring obese man's waist


Obesity is a medical term that means too much body fat. It is a complex health issue affecting adults and children. Becoming obese is the result of many factors, which can include dietary patterns, activities, the environment, and genetics.

Obesity is a serious public health problem because it may increase the chance of developing serious illnesses. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, and certain types of cancer. These diseases are some of the leading causes of preventable or premature death.

The following clinical trials are currently recruiting

Millions of people worldwide are overweight or obese. According to the World Health Organization, obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In the U.S., 42% of adults were considered obese (2017-2018), with no major differences in prevalence between men and women or by age group. At the same time, 18.5% of children and adolescents, about 13.7 million, were obese in the U.S. Childhood obesity is more common among Hispanics (25.8%) and non-Hispanic blacks (22.0%) than other population groups. Because of widespread occurrence, obesity is considered an epidemic in the U.S. and globally.

There is no simple solution to the obesity epidemic. It’s a complex problem, but obesity is preventable. A lifestyle that includes nutritious eating and regular physical activity can help people stay at healthy weights.

Scientists are exploring the idea that some chemicals in the environment may play a role in obesity. According to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, childhood obesity is associated with multiple environmental factors, including early life exposure to smoking and air pollution.

Fact Sheets

Obesity and the Environment

What is NIEHS Doing?

NIEHS Research Efforts

Further Reading

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS Newsletter)

Additional Resources

  • Healthy People 2030 - Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
  • National Library of Medicine Medline Plus: Obesity - Links and definitions about obesity.
  • NIH Strategic Plan for Nutrition Research - The first NIH-wide strategic plan for nutrition research emphasizes cross-cutting, innovative opportunities to advance nutrition research across a wide range of areas.
  • Obesity - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Adult obesity facts.
  • Physical Wellness Toolkit - Watching what you put into your body, how much activity you get, and your weight are important for keeping your body working properly. Positive physical health habits can help decrease your stress, lower your risk of disease, and increase your energy. 
  • Social Wellness Toolkit - From the time you’re born, your relationships help you learn to navigate the world. You learn how to interact with others, express yourself, conduct everyday health habits, and be a part of different communities from those around you. Positive social habits can help you build support systems and stay healthier mentally and physically.
Content courtesy of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Related Health Topics

This content is available to use on your website.

Please visit NIEHS Syndication to get started.
to Top