Obesity is the focus of multiple lines of inquiry that have - together and separately - produced many deep insights into the physiology of weight gain and maintenance. We examine three such streams of research and show how they are oriented to obesity intervention through multilevel integrated approaches. The first research programme is concerned with the genetics and biochemistry of fat production, and it links metabolism, physiology, endocrinology and neurochemistry. The second account of obesity is developmental and draws together epigenetic and environmental explanations that can be embedded in an evolutionary framework. The third line of research focuses on the role of gut microbes in the production of obesity, and how microbial activities interact with host genetics, development and metabolism. These interwoven explanatory strategies are driven by an orientation to intervention, both for experimental and therapeutic outcomes. We connect the integrative and intervention-oriented aspects of obesity research through a discussion of translation, broadening the concept to capture the dynamic, iterative processes of scientific practice and therapy development. This system-oriented analysis of obesity research expands the philosophical scrutiny of contemporary developments in the biosciences and biomedicine, and has the potential to enrich philosophy of science and medicine.