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Nutrition Science: Obesity and Healthy Weight Loss

Delve into the lifestyle contributors and lived experience of obesity and how to healthily promote weight loss.

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    10 hours

Learn theories in human nutrition and weight management

According to NHS Digital, in the year 2019/2020, over 1 million hospital admissions were linked to obesity.

On this four-week course, you’ll reflect on the role of nutrition in influencing weight gain as well as the lived experience of obesity to truly understand the different contributing factors.

You’ll also have the opportunity to enhance your ability to analyse current and developing theories in human nutrition and weight management.

You’ll discover the epidemiology trends in obesity and also understand the major lifestyle contributors to obesity and weight gain in society.

You’ll examine the principles of nutrition and critically evaluate the evidence base for nutrition guidelines.

Unpack the challenges of obesity treatment and prevention

As you explore the contributors to weight gain, you’ll also discover the many challenges for the prevention and treatment of obesity and how these can be overcome.

You’ll examine the dietary strategies on body weight management and the physiological and psychological bases of weight gain. With this knowledge, you’ll have the ability to evaluate what affects weight wellness.

Understand the barriers and enablers of weight loss management

To understand the impact on longer-term weight management, you’ll explore the barriers and enablers to post-weight loss management.

This will help you describe both the strengths and limitations of weight loss methods as you evaluate these with supporting evidence.

You’ll hear from health care professionals, clinicians, and people living with obesity to ensure you finish the course with greater knowledge and empathy of the causes of weight gain.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds ALEX JOHNSTON: Hello, I’m Professor Alex Johnston, and I’m based at the Rowett Institute part of the University of Aberdeen. I’m a research scientist in diet and health, and I’m the lead educator for this course on obesity and weight loss with FutureLearn. As a learner on this course, you will be learning about the cause and prevention of obesity. We use the latest research to look at both the nutritional and the non-nutritional factors linked to obesity, and cover some of the myths that surround some of the many diets available. We will cover hot topics such as the role of the microbiome, personalised nutrition, and timing of eating.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds You will also hear about some of the approaches to maintaining energy balance after weight loss. And importantly, we’re going to be teaching you some of the skills to allow you to evaluate and make sense of research findings. Now this course is ideally suited to those that are working in health care and allied professions, but also those in the food and drinks industry who want to deepen their knowledge in this area. The course is run completely online, so that you can set your own study schedule, with a mix of videos, discussions, quizzes, and tasks. You will have support from experts in the field, from researchers, clinicians, and patients themselves. That’s really important.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds And throughout the course, you’ll be supported by the educators and by the other learners on the course. We look forward to welcoming you on the course.


  • Week 1

    Prevention of Obesity and Overweight

    • Welcome to the Course

      A warm welcome to the course! I am excited to share my passion for nutrition science with you and explore the topics related to obesity and healthy weight loss. I am hoping this will be an exciting learning journey for you!

    • Is Obesity a Disease?

      This is a question that raises huge controversies. In this activity, we present the epidemiology of obesity and discuss the associations with non-communicable diseases. Join the discussion and share your point of view!

    • How do we Measure Obesity?

      Have you ever explored different ways of assessing body weight status? The BMI and waist circumference are the most commonly used measures, but these are not without limitations, which we will discuss in this activity.

    • Is it all in the Genes?

      Dr Giles Yeo MBE who is a Principal Research Associate at MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit and a Scientific Director of the Genomics/Transcriptomics Core at the University of Cambridge will discuss the genetic context of obesity.

    • The Science of Food Choice and Behaviour

      Is obesity determined by biology or is it all in the head? This activity will focus on explaining physiological and psychological factors associated with obesity.

    • End of the Week Summary

      This week you learnt about the prevention of obesity and overweight. In this activity, you will receive guidance on how to find reliable sources of information and access peer-reviewed articles.

  • Week 2

    Weight Loss Diets

    • Welcome to week 2

      Welcome to week 2! This week you will explore nutritional aspects of overweight and obesity. We will debunk some of the myths related to weight-loss and look at the obesity topic from the clinician and patient perspectives.

    • Popular Diets and Dieting Myths

      Have you ever wondered where the weight goes when it's lost? Or which diet is most effective? We'll address these questions in this activity and we encourage you to take part in the discussion on the evidence behind popular diets.

    • Clinical and Patient Perspective

      In this activity you will meet two experts who will help you in getting an insight into clinical and patient perspectives: Dr Kevin Deans – Service Clinical Director in Clinical Biochemistry and Ken Clare - chair of the EASO ECPO.

    • End of the Week Summary

      This week you have learnt about the nutritional aspects of weight loss. This activity will allow you to apply your knowledge with a hands-on task to calculate your own energy requirement.

  • Week 3

    Non-Nutritional Aspects of Weight Loss

    • Welcome to Week 3

      Welcome to week 3! This week we focus on the non-nutritional aspects of weight loss, such as physical activity, psychological factors or bariatric surgery. Join the discussion share your views on weight-loss barriers & gateways.

    • The Role of Physical Activity and Sleep

      This activity was created for you to get a better understanding of the role of physical activity and sleep in the weight loss process and to gain practical skills of calculating energy expenditure.

    • Alternative approaches in body weight managment

      This activity discusses other routes in weight loss strategies including behavioural change, bariatric surgery and explores links with gut microbiota.

    • End of the Week Summary

      We hope you enjoyed learning about the non-nutritional aspects of weight loss. It is time to test your knowledge in the quiz provided and share your views on what promotes weight gain and what are the main barriers in weigh loss.

  • Week 4

    Weight Loss Maintenance

    • Welcome to Week 4

      Welcome to week 4! This week we will focus on the most challenging part of the process - weight loss maintenance. The topics discussed include the time of eating, post-weight-loss wellness and public health perspective.

    • Time of Eating

      The main focus in the last few decades of nutrition research was on WHAT we need to eat (or avoid) to be healthy. The recent findings suggest that the timing of eating might be of equal importance.

    • Obesity - Personal or State Responsibility?

      This is one of the most controversial questions in the obesity topic. In this activity you will learn about public health strategies. What's your view on this - take part in the poll!

    • Post Weight-Loss Wellness

      As you have learnt so far losing weight can be very difficult. Unfortunately, it can be even harder to keep the weight off. Meet the experts who will discuss weight-loss maintenance and the role of physical activity.

    • End of Week Summary

      This week we have covered topics around the post-weight-loss challenges and discussed the latest chrono-nutrition research. It is time now, to reflect on what you have learnt so far in the peer-reviewed assignment.

    • End of Course Video

      Congratulations! We hope you enjoyed the course and learned a lot to take forward in your career and/or personal life.

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...

  • Discuss the major lifestyle contributors to obesity and weight gain in society and the challenges for prevention and treatment.
  • Explain the principles of nutrition and how they impact weight loss and critically evaluate the evidence base for nutrition guidelines.
  • Apply knowledge of the physiological and psychological bases of obesity and weight gain and critically evaluate how they can impact weight wellness.
  • Explain the barriers and enablers to post weight loss management and understand their impact on longer term weight management.
  • Reflect on and describe the strengths and limitations of weight loss methods and evaluate these with supporting evidence.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in health, in relation to obesity and weight gain.

You may be a health professional, working in health care or the food system, or you could simply be looking to enhance your CPD.

If you want to further your subject knowledge, you may be interested in these courses, from the same provider, that share the same overall learning outcomes:

Who will you learn with?

I lead a Research Team as a Nutrition Scientist based at the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen. I am interested in appetite across the life course. I am also a UK Registered Nutritionist.

I am a teaching fellow at the Rowett Institute. My latest scientific interests encompass the sustainability of the human diet, the effect of plant protein on metabolic health and the environment.

Who developed the course?

University of Aberdeen

University of Aberdeen is the 3rd oldest Scottish and 5th oldest UK University. With 14500 students from 120 countries, it is a world leader in medical research, energy, environment, law and business.

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

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