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Welcome to UBVO

We are an interdisciplinary research unit based at the University of Oxford, dedicated to understanding the complex and interwoven causes of obesity in populations across the world. Our Fellows, Associates, and students represent a diversity of disciplines, both within and beyond the academic sphere. Our project collaborators range from visual and performance artists to epidemiologists, policy makers and anthropologists. A paper outlining the UBVO's multidisciplinary obesity research can be found here.

Our aim

Obesity rates continue to increase worldwide, despite some national trends to its stabilisation among children. Given the magnitude and diversity of the problem in both developed and developing countries, it is of utmost importance that academic work should focus on the various dimensions of the pandemic, including paths less trod. Despite strong work in physiology, epidemiology, public health, psychology, economics and anthropology, there remains a knowledge gap concerning social, cultural and political aspects of the emergence of obesity among many of the world's populations. Interdisciplinary research between social, biological and medical sciences is therefore essential.

The Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity (UBVO) at the University of Oxford addresses this issue by bringing together scholars of different disciplines to identify and work on multidisciplinary problems in obesity, and of the socio-cultural and political correlates and drivers of this phenomenon in particular. Discipline areas involved in collaboration at Oxford include anthropology, public health, epidemiology, politics and international relations, economic history, and sociology.

Research issues include the examination of constructs of body size and embodiment, biological and social life histories, consumption and affluence, media and marketing, and obesity and evolutionary adaptation. Instruments for collaborative research under examination include ethnographies, narrative and textual analyses, cultural consensus modeling, evolutionary life history theory, political economics, history and human biology, and epidemiology of diet and lifestyle.


Ulijaszek SJ, Rayner M, Potter CMP, Bertens MGBC, Spencer EA, Allender S, Oxley D, Offer A, Rutter H, McPherson K (2008) Multidisciplinary obesity research: a local strategy for breaking new ground. (Download)

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