The calculus of calories: mathematical models to quantify obesity and its treatment



Obesity presents a major public health challenge. Many obesity interventions have been proposed to help both individuals and populations, but previous methods for predicting weight loss did not account for dynamic changes in metabolism and body composition as people gain and lose weight.


IRP researchers led by Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., and Carson C. Chow, Ph.D., created and validated novel mathematical models of human metabolism and body weight dynamics to provide accurate predictions about the development of obesity and its treatment in adults and children.


Award-winning Web and smartphone applications for predicting human weight dynamics based on the new algorithms have been used by more than one million people so far. The models quantify the calorie imbalance underlying the obesity epidemic and predict how interventions will impact body weight in individuals, as well as in entire populations.


Hall KD, Butte NF, Swinburn BA, Chow CC. (2013). Dynamics of childhood growth and obesity: development and validation of a quantitative mathematical model. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinolo. 1(2), 97-105

Lin BH, Smith TA, Lee JY, Hall KD. (2011). Measuring weight outcomes for obesity intervention strategies: The case of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. Econ Hum Biol. 9(4), 329-41.

Hall KD, Sacks G, Chandramohan D, Chow CC, Wang YC, Gortmaker S, Swinburn BA. (2011). Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight. The Lancet. 378(9793), 826-37

Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC. (2009). The progressive increase of food waste in America and its environmental impact. PLoS One. 4(11), e7940. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007940

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