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Common Obesity Beliefs Often Unsupported by Science

Last Updated: January 30, 2013.

Many commonly held beliefs about obesity and weight loss are not supported by scientific evidence, according to a study published in the Jan. 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Many commonly held beliefs about obesity and weight loss are not supported by scientific evidence, according to a study published in the Jan. 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues identified obesity-related myths and presumptions in the popular media and scientific literature, and identified facts that were supported by evidence.

The researchers identified seven obesity-related myths, including the myth that small changes in calorie intake or expenditure accumulate to produce large weight changes over the long term; that large, rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term weight-loss outcomes; and the myth that sexual activity can burn up to 300 Kcal per person. They also identified six presumptions, such as the importance of eating breakfast and fruits and vegetables for weight loss. Finally, they identified nine evidence-supported facts, including the role of genetics in obesity and that realistic changes to lifestyle and environment can lead to weight loss.

"The scientific method and logical thinking offer ways to detect erroneous statements, acknowledge our uncertainty, and increase our knowledge," Casazza and colleagues conclude. "The myths and presumptions about obesity that we have discussed are just a sampling of the numerous unsupported beliefs held by many people, including academics, regulators, and journalists, as well as the general public."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and food companies.

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