The phrase "fat and happy" couldn't be going out of style faster. From the strangely coincident ads for weight loss and antidepressants on dating sites, to public weight-control initiatives out of virtually every source (including celebrity chefs and the President of the United States), being overweight has never been so unpopular—or popular, since fully a third of American adults are considered obese.
Among others, the NIH Obesity Research Task Force (established in 2003) weighed in on obesity with their 2011 Strategic Plan, a follow-up to their 2004 Plan.
The five subsections of the report describe research into biological mechanisms, social correlations, group interventions, translation into policy, and measurement tools. The results of the research so far could be summed up as: "We have identified many biological pathways contributing to obesity, connected several social and cultural features to obesity, confirmed that coaching and weight loss help prevent obesity-related disorders, and have new information-gathering techniques and ways to better estimate the seriousness of the problem. We also have a very, very long way to go—back to the lab!"
It's not for lack of effort. At least 3,800 obesity-related grants have been distributed since 2007, a purse of billions of dollars. Over 600 mention obesity in the title. And, while the connection is certainly a stretch for some of them, they really do cover every imaginable association.
From the molecular to the mundane, hard science and soft science are applied to every level of the problem.
From the influences of single proteins to the role of neighborhood planning and sidewalk connectivity, the task force jumps across disciplines to answer a few important question: Why did everyone start putting on weight? How does the body respond to being overweight? What can we do about it?"
This leads to interesting experiments. Some Amish will have their gut microflora reseeded with different strains for the advancement of science. Everything from meditation to lactation will be examined in the context of obesity.
This myriad-pronged approach demonstrates both a move to personalized medicine and a desperate need to do something about the problem, soon.