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Obesity : The Myths

Obesity has become a major health concern world-wide. The number of obese people continues to increase and the growing number of obese young people is particularly alarming. Much time and money have been spent on research to clearly identify the causes and possible effective treatments for obesity. Because the establishment of science supported facts about obesity has been slow, many desperate consumers have welcomed unsupported promises. The authors of a recent review in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine have listed seven myths that are believed to be true despite the lack of substantive supporting evidence.

  • MYTH: Small sustained changes in energy intake or expenditure will produce large, long-term weight changes. REALITY: Walking 1 mile a day expends about 100 kcal. So doing this for 5 years leads to a true weight loss of 4.5 kg, not 22.7kg as is commonly believed.
  • MYTH: Setting realistic goals for weight loss is important, because otherwise patients will become frustrated and lose less weight. REALITY: There is no consistent scientific evidence to support this. More ambitious weight-goals can in fact result in better weight-loss results.
  • MYTH: Large rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term weight-loss outcomes as compared with slow, gradual weight loss. REALITY: In the short term this may be true; in the long term slow weight-loss and rapid weight-loss give the same results
  • MYTH: It is important to assess a person's stage of change or diet readiness to help patients develop an effective weight-loss treatment. REALITY: The amount of weight lost during treatment, or the level of compliance to a diet regime is not affected by the level of readiness of the participant
  • MYTH: Most school physical-education classes can play an important role in reducing or preventing childhood obesity. REALITY: The amount and duration of physical activity needed to prevent or reduce obesity in children require much higher levels of activity than most schools offer.
  • MYTH: Breast-feeding is protective against obesity. REALITY: There is no compelling evidence in the scientific literature supporting the relationship between breast-feeding and childhood obesity.
  • MYTH: Sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each participant. REALITY: A typical 6 minute love making session uses about 21 kcal; watching television for 6 minutes uses up 7 kcal.


Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity
N Engl J Med 2013,368:446-454

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