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The causes of obesity.

  • James, W. P. T. 1938-
  • Videos
  • Online

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About this work


Dr WPT James talks about the causes of obesity. He states from the outset that he is not going to look at unusual medical abnormalities associated with obesity, but at the simple, familiar types of obesity that affect ordinary people very day. He defines how obesity should be measured using weight for height criteria. As statistics show that obesity frequently starts in childhood, James looks at social factors affecting its onset as well as demographic features and studies into metabolism.


London : University of London Audio-Visual Centre, 1977.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (36.40 min.) : sound, black and white.



Copyright note

University of London

Terms of use

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales

Language note

In English

Creator/production credits

Presented by Dr WPT James, MRC Dunn Nutrition Unit, University of Cambridge. Produced by Trevor A Scott. Made by University of London Audio-Visual Centre.


This video is one of around 310 titles, originally broadcast on Channel 7 of the ILEA closed-circuit television network, given to Wellcome Trust from the University of London Audio-Visual Centre shortly after it closed in the late 1980s. Although some of these programmes might now seem rather out-dated, they probably represent the largest and most diversified body of medical video produced in any British university at this time, and give a comprehensive and fascinating view of the state of medical and surgical research and practice in the 1970s and 1980s, thus constituting a contemporary medical-historical archive of great interest. The lectures mostly take place in a small and intimate studio setting and are often face-to-face. The lecturers use a wide variety of resources to illustrate their points, including film clips, slides, graphs, animated diagrams, charts and tables as well as 3-dimensional models and display boards with movable pieces. Some of the lecturers are telegenic while some are clearly less comfortable about being recorded; all are experts in their field and show great enthusiasm to share both the latest research and the historical context of their specialist area.


Segment 1 James begins by saying that one of the problems with studying obesity is that of definition. He runs through a series of slides showing obesity definitions and statistics based on height to weight ratio criteria. He points out how much more common obesity is in the female population than in the male. He also touches on the fact that different social classes have different levels of obesity. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:05:18:10 Length: 00:05:18:10
Segment 2 James shows a table of figures relating to patients attending a hospital in Glasgow. He points out that many of the female patients measured as obese say their obesity started in childhood, around a third say it started after pregnancy and only a small proportion claim it began in adult life. For men it is different, most say their obesity started in adult life. James refers to statistics which show that of the babies who gained weight very rapidly after birth about half went on to become overweight in childhood and adulthood. Equally, of children obese between five and ten years of age, about half go on to be obese in later life. However, no children who were never obese seem to go on to become overweight as they grow older. Time start: 00:05:18:10 Time end: 00:10:07:10 Length: 00:04:49:00
Segment 3 James looks at the reasons why babies might become obese. He believes it is due to bottle feeding rather than breast feeding and refers to a study of this maked in Dublin. He says this is because bottle fed babies are over fed by mothers who want them to finish their bottle. James goes on to talk about congenital obesity running in families; he shows studies relating to this. A diagrammatic slide illustrating the flow of energy in the body is referred to by James to show how the balance of calories to activity can lead to obesity. Time start: 00:10:07:10 Time end: 00:15:28:12 Length: 00:05:21:02
Segment 4 James shows a graph measuring the level of daily exercise with the likelihood of obesity, then refers again to his earlier diagrammatic slide showing the flow of energy in the human body. He discusses the possibility that thin or overweight children might have different basal metabolic rates and shows a graph comparing the results of a study into this - he discusses the findings in detail. Time start: 00:15:28:12 Time end: 00:21:26:16 Length: 00:06:03:04
Segment 5 James shows slides detailing the effects of ovulation on body temperature and subsequently, changes in metabolic rate. He then shows an animated slide detailing energy intake and energy output levels over a prolonged period of time in obese people; he says these kind of studies are important in order to finally answer the question of whether or not obesity is a 'tendency' in some people, beyond their control. On this subject, he discusses a study on prisoners in Vermont which seemed to suggest that there might be an individual susceptibility to obesity. Time start: 00:21:26:16 Time end: 00:28:05:06 Length: 00:06:38:15
Segment 6 James moves on to discuss social factors which might influence a tendency towards obesity. He shows a strip cartoon which details a girl's life showing how each moment of her day is punctuated with rewards of bad food and low energy expenditure. The cartoon follows the pattern of her life into adulthood and marriage. Time start: 00:28:05:06 Time end: 00:32:18:13 Length: 00:04:13:07
Segment 7 James continues the strip cartoon about the obese young woman, beginning, here, with her working life and seeing her through pregnancy and further weight gain until she has a child and repeats the same patterns as her mother. James sums up the lecture by showing a slide which lists the most common known causes of obesity. Time start: 00:32:18:13 Time end: 00:36:40:03 Length: 00:04:23:15


  • English

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