Redefining Risk: The New Frontier in Obesity Prediction


A Viewpoint by Petar A., Practice Lead, Health Economics and Market Access Center of Excellence

Obesity represents the most significant public health challenge facing developed countries today. Its complexity and multifaceted nature lead to immense clinical, patient, and societal burdens. Over the past few decades, this health issue rates have risen dramatically, affecting approximately 1 in 8 adults and over 390 million children and adolescents globally (WHO, 2024). This underscores the need for effective interventions and policies to address this growing health crisis.

Understanding the broader effects

Obesity has significant clinical implications, affecting both physical and psychological well-being and often leading to a decreased quality of life and premature mortality (Chong, 2023). Individuals with obesity face an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain forms of cancer, and immunological diseases. Moreover, obesity has a significant impact on mental health, with higher incidences of depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders observed among those affected (Luppino, 2010).

Obesity places a significant financial strain on healthcare systems and economies at large (Nagi, 2024). The direct costs associated with treating weight-related health conditions and the indirect costs from lost productivity, disability, and premature death are substantial. In the United States alone, the estimated annual medical cost of obesity reaches hundreds of billions of dollars, reflecting an increase over the past two decades (CDC, 2024). These expenses reflect the need for considerable healthcare resources, including medical services, medications, and potentially long-term care. Furthermore, the economic impact of obesity extends beyond healthcare expenditure, affecting workplace productivity and labor participation rates.  

Beyond “calories in versus calories out”

The traditional approach to understanding overweight, based on the concept of “calories in versus calories out” has guided preventative, therapeutic and behavioral interventions. However, this perspective is now recognized as too basic, failing to capture the multifaceted and intricate nature of obesity (Wen, 2022). Research shows that the etiology of obesity is influenced by an interplay of factors extending beyond mere caloric balance. These factors encompass environmental influences, physiological processes, socio-economic factors, and genetic predispositions (Lin, 2021).

Environmental factors contribute to unhealthy weight, with the current setting often described as “obesogenic”. This environment promotes the consumption of high-calorie, nutrient-poor food consumption and sedentary lifestyles (Mackenbach, 2014). Accessibility to processed foods, urbanization, and technological advancements that encourage reduced physical activity are key contributors to the rising rates of obesity. Additionally, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in everyday products has been linked to altered metabolic processes and fat accumulation.

The role of the gut microbiome in obesity underscores the complexity of its development. Recent evidence suggests that the diversity and composition of gut bacteria can impact energy metabolism, fat storage, and even food cravings (Muscogiuri, 2019).  This understanding opens up a new area in weight management, highlighting the importance of investigating and potentially targeting the gut microbiome to address this multifaceted condition.

Socio-economic factors play a key role in understanding and underlying causes of this overweight condition (Ke, 2023). Low-income populations often face barriers in accessing healthy foods and safe environments for physical activity, contributing to higher obesity rates. Education, cultural beliefs, and access to healthcare also play a crucial role in changing dietary habits and overall health outcomes.

Psychological stress and sleep disturbances are additional factors that contribute to obesity. Chronic stress and lack of sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances affecting appetite and metabolism, thereby increasing the risk of weight gain (Rodrigues, 2021).

Finally, genetic predisposition has a major influence in the development of obesity. Individuals with specific genetic profiles may experience variations in metabolic rates, appetite control, and fat storage patterns, making them more susceptible to weight gain, even with similar caloric intake and activity levels compared to those without such genetic factors (Loos, 2021). This genetic variability emphasizes the need for personalized approaches to obesity prevention and treatment.

The importance of early predictors

Early identification of obesity risk offers key benefits for both public health strategies and individual health outcomes. Identifying individuals at high risk of developing obesity provides a crucial opportunity for intervention. This can alter a person’s health trajectory, potentially preventing the onset of obesity-related comorbidities.

Early prediction allows the implementation of targeted preventive measures, such as nutritional guidance, physical activity promotion, and behavioral therapy. These interventions are particularly effective when initiated at a younger age, as children and adolescents are still developing their habits and health behaviors. By intervening early, individuals can reduce their risk of becoming obese adults.

The way forward

At Amaris Consulting, we believe in the use of artificial intelligence to redefine the frontier of risk prediction in obesity. Through the integration of different types of data including clinical, behavioral, and omics data, and the application of advanced learning techniques, we aim to develop more accurate and personalized risk profiles. Our involvement in the European-wide eprObes project showcases our commitment to using artificial intelligence in an ethical way, with a focus on bringing value to society.

Our team of artificial intelligence experts collaborates closely with internationally renowned obesity researchers and specialists. Together, we are working towards a paradigm shift in obesity prevention, with the goal of reducing the global burden of obesity.

If you’re interested in learning more about our initiatives or exploring potential collaborations, visit our website to discover more about our Health Economics & Market Access Center of Excellence or contact us. Together, we can forge a healthier future!

Learn more about the eprObes project in the following videos:

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