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Shocking Dieting and Obesity Myths of 2013 Exposed by NEJM

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NEJM Obesity and Dieting Myths

In a shocking article published in the January 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers have exposed several dieting and obesity myths that until now have been treated as common wisdom by health experts.

Their findings are a result of their concern about prevalent erroneous beliefs of “facts” and “common knowledge” related to obesity and dieting that are affecting policy decisions and promoting inaccurate clinical and public health recommendations. Furthermore, such erroneous beliefs can affect future research on obesity.

The study was the result of analysis of data collected from Internet searches of popular media and scientific literature related to the health problems, causes and current solutions for treating obesity. From the analysis, the researchers found a surprising number of obesity related myths and presumptions that fail to be supported by accurate medical evidence.

Dieting and Obesity Myth #1: Breast fed babies are less likely to become obese.

According to the study, the World Health Organization has used this myth as a fact in their reports. However, a controlled clinical study involving 13,000 children over a 6-year period found no evidence that breastfeeding prevents obesity.

Dieting and Obesity Myth #2: Minor, slow weight loss trumps large, rapid weight loss

According to the report, studies show that people who drop a significant amount of weight (such as with a low-calorie daily diet) in a short time period, do the best toward overall longer term weight loss.

Dieting and Obesity Myth #3: Sustained little changes such as eating a little less or exercising a little more each day will lead to significant weight loss over time

The truth is that in the long-term, the body actually compensates in a variety of ways that work against weight loss; therefore, claims that burning an extra 100 calories a day will result in 50 pounds lost over a few years actually comes closer to be about only one-fifth that amount.

Dieting and Obesity Myth #4: More recesses and physical education classes will reduce and prevent obesity in school children

The report reveals that there is no demonstrable evidence that if the current P.E. programs are increased that they will effectively reduce BMI or obesity in children as a rule.

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Dieting and Obesity Myth #5: Setting realistic weight loss goals is key to preventing dieter frustration and failure

Setting realistic weight loss goals has not been shown to impact actual weight loss; and in fact, some studies indicate just the opposite—that setting an ambitious goal results in more weight lost.

Dieting and Obesity Myth #6: Readiness or willingness to stick to a diet is necessary

The authors reports that experimental evidence actually shows that readiness does not correlate with dieting results.

Dieting and Obesity Myth #7: Sex burns between 100 to 300 calories

The authors found that among other things exaggerated about sex, this is one of the biggest. The fact is that the calories burnt during sex amounts to that burned during a leisurely walk. The authors state that the average time period of sexual activity lasts about 6 minutes, which translates to only about 21 calories burned.

Assorted beliefs that are generally accepted as true, but found to be equally likely of being false include:

• Snacking will make you gain weight.
• Eating breakfast instead of skipping it will help prevent obesity.
• Yo-yo dieting will take months or years off your life.
• Long-term eating and exercise habits are set in early childhood.

The conclusion reached by the authors of the study is that both false and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive in not only the popular press and media, but also in scientific literature.

For two additional informative articles about diet and obesity myths, follow the links titled “Five Diet Myths Shared by Dr. Oz and Health Officials on Weight Loss and Nutrition” and “Dr. Oz's 5 Latest Diet Myths Busted.”

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: "Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity" New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 31, 2013); 368:446-454; Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D., et al.