The 12th Stock Conference addressed body composition and related functions in two extreme situations, obesity and cancer cachexia. The concept of ‘functional body composition’ integrates body components into regulatory systems relating the mass of organs and tissues to corresponding in vivo functions and metabolic processes. This concept adds to an understanding of organ/tissue mass and function in the context of metabolic adaptations to weight change and disease. During weight gain and loss, there are associated changes in individual body components while the relationships between organ and tissue mass are fixed. Thus an understanding of body weight regulation involves an examination of the relationships between organs and tissues rather than individual organ and tissue masses only. The between organ/tissue mass relationships are associated with and explained by crosstalks between organs and tissues mediated by cytokines, hormones and metabolites that are coupled with changes in body weight, composition and function as observed in obesity and cancer cachexia. In addition to established roles in intermediary metabolism, cell function and inflammation, organ-tissue crosstalk mediators are determinants of body composition and its change with weight gain and loss. The 12th Stock Conference supported Michael Stocks' concept of gaining new insights by integrating research ideas from obesity and cancer cachexia. The conference presentations provide an in-depth understanding of body composition and metabolism.