New book by I.Family partner published


Society’s fixation with children’s weight can be counterproductive

A preoccupation with obesity could harm children’s overall health and well-being, claim researchers in a new book.

Published on Friday 25th April, Childhood obesity: ethical and policy issues argues that the stigmatisation of childhood obesity may worsen health problems and that increasing obesity rates are far from the only social concern.

Co-author Dr Williams from Lancaster University explains, “Obesity is the most visible indication of more widespread health problems – low levels of physical fitness, poor diet, metabolic syndrome – that are found in many children, even those who may be ‘normal weight’ or underweight.”

The book argues that childhood obesity should not be our only focus, nor addressed in isolation.

“We need to look at the wider determinants of health – not just obesity or even diet”, says Dr Williams.  “We need to think about other social priorities – such as sustainability, equality, safety, and children’s freedom – and find ways to address these priorities alongside one another.”

One of the main challenges is the stigma attached to obesity, say the authors. This contributes to many behaviours that can worsen children’s health outcomes, such as a reluctance to exercise or seek medical assistance and the adoption of dangerous, possibly counterproductive weight loss methods.

Dr Williams is one of 17 lead partners in the EC-funded I.Family study, which is investigating the determinants of food choice, lifestyle and health in European families. I.Family is following the health of thousands of adolescents, following their earlier involvement in the IDEFICS Study (2006-2012).  Read his blog about the book here.

Book cover2

ENDS/Contacts and Notes follow

Childhood obesity: ethical and policy issues, by Kristin Voigt, Stuart G. Nicholls, and Garrath Williams, published by Oxford University Press on 25 April 2014.

The book’s cover image, “Red Velvet Cupcake Boys”, by Christopher Boffoli.

Media contact for I.Family Study – Kate Viggers/Rhonda Smith +44 (0) 1264 326427/+44 (0) 7887 714957. or

Notes for Editors:

  1. The I.Family Study is an EC funded project under Framework 7 of the KBBE programme running from March 2012 to February 2017. It has 17 partners, working across 11 countries and with cohorts in 8 European countries – Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Spain and Belgium.
  2. The Study has two strategic objectives:
    (1) Understand the interplay between barriers against and drivers towards healthy food choice;
    (2) Develop and disseminate strategies to induce changes that promote healthy dietary behaviour in European consumers especially adolescents and their parents
  3. The I.Family Study is re-assessing the families first engaged with in the IDEFICS study (Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study, 2006-12). The children were first studied when they were under 10 years of age, and are now entering adolescence. I. Family is adopting a holistic approach by investigating the biological, behavioural, social and environmental factors that drive dietary behaviour as children grow up.

4. I.Family Study partners

Participant organisation Lead investigator(s) Key responsibilities
University of Bremen, Germany Wolfgang Ahrens Project coordinator
BIPS – Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research GmbH, Germany Iris Pigeot German cohort, statistics
Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Italy Alfonso Siani Italian cohort, nutritional epidemiology
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark Lucia Reisch,
Wencke Gwozdz
Consumer behaviour & environmental influences
Lancaster University, United Kingdom Garrath Williams Ethics, policy, and stakeholder engagement
Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden Staffan Mårild,
Lauren Lissner
Swedish cohort, family analysis
University of Helsinki, Finland Jaakko Kaprio Familial aggregation & genetic modelling
University of the Baleares Islands, Spain Andreu Palou,
Catalina Picó
Genomic analysis
University of Pécs, Hungary Dénes Molnár Hungarian cohort
Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, The Netherlands Roger Adan Neuroimaging & neuropsychology
Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Cyprus Michael Tornaritis Cypriot cohort
National Institute for Health Development, Estonia Toomas Veidebaum Estonian cohort
Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Italy Vittorio Krogh Dietary assessment methods
University of Bristol, United Kingdom Angie Page,
Ashley Cooper
Physical activity monitoring
Minerva PRC Ltd, United Kingdom Rhonda Smith
Kate Viggers
Dissemination and communication
University of Zaragoza, Spain Luis Moreno Spanish cohort
Ghent University, Belgium Stefaan De Henauw Belgian cohort



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