Modeling US adult obesity trends: A system dynamics model for estimating energy imbalance gap

Saeideh Fallah-Fini, Hazhir Rahmandad, Terry T.K. Huang, Regina M. Bures, Thomas A. Glass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives. We present a system dynamics model that quantifies the energy imbalance gap responsible for the US adult obesity epidemic among gender and racial subpopulations. Methods. We divided the adult population into gender-race/ethnicity subpopulations and body mass index (BMI) classes. We defined transition rates between classes as a function of metabolic dynamics of individuals within each class. We estimated energy intake in each BMI class within the past 4 decades as a multiplication of the equilibrium energy intake of individuals in that class. Through calibration, we estimated the energy gap multiplier for each gender-race-BMI group by matching simulated BMI distributions for each subpopulation against national data with maximum likelihood estimation. Results. No subpopulation showed a negative or zero energy gap, suggesting that the obesity epidemic continues to worsen, albeit at a slower rate. In the past decade the epidemic has slowed for non-Hispanic Whites, is starting to slow for non-Hispanic Blacks, but continues to accelerate among Mexican Americans. Conclusions. The differential energy balance gap across subpopulations and over time suggests that interventions should be tailored to subpopulations' needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1230-1239
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this