• University of Reading

Obesity: Causes and Consequences

Obesity is a global epidemic. As the world gets fatter, explore its impact on our health and lives, with this free online course.

28,149 enrolled on this course

Obesity can be caused by high-calorie foods such donuts
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Obesity is changing the world we live in. Across a wide range of sectors - from the food industry to clothing design - we see the impact of the world’s growing waistline.

Perhaps the biggest impact obesity has is on our physical and psychological health, and the organisations and institutions that care for us.

Investigate the causes and consequences of obesity

In this free online course, we’ll investigate how modern life is increasing levels of obesity around the world, and the wide-ranging consequences this has on individual lives and society as a whole.

We’ll explore the impact of abundant, cheap, high-calorie fast food; sedentary lifestyles; changing modes of transport; and increasing urbanisation. Over four weeks, we’ll ask:

  • How do we define and measure obesity?
  • What are the causes of obesity?
  • What are the consequences of obesity on health?
  • How is research into obesity helping us to understand the issue?

Take a multidisciplinary approach to obesity

Specialists from the University of Reading’s School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy will guide you through the latest research in the field, and discuss how a multidisciplinary approach can help tackle the obesity epidemic.

If you’re a healthcare professional, this course will offer you a taste of the University’s Certificate in Obesity Management.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

Week one:

  • Introduction to obesity and how it’s defined.
  • Obesity portrayed in the media.
  • The public’s perceptions and prejudices regarding obesity.

Week two:

  • How obesity is measured.
  • Critical introduction to body mass index.
  • Introduction to resting energy expenditure.

Week three:

  • Overview of the key factors that contribute to weight gain.
  • How the factors that contribute to obesity can be classified and grouped.
  • How weight is regulated to prevent obesity.

Week four:

  • Introduction to the links between obesity and ill-health.
  • Overview of the key consequences of obesity.
  • How healthcare consultations can be improved.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify and compare the prevalence of obesity in different countries
  • Explore and reflect on the perceptions and prejudice associated with obesity
  • Calculate, interpret and compare the various methods for classifying obesity
  • Discuss and classify the contributing causes of obesity
  • Explain the reasons for and summarise the health consequences of obesity

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in understanding obesity and health, including healthcare professionals.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a retired pharmacist with an interest in climate change and sustainability. At the University of Reading, where I am Professor Emerita, I ran an obesity course on FutureLearn so love the platform.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLobesity to talk about this course on social media.