According to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, many of the popular obesity myths are just not true. An article published on June 23rd, 2014 in “Critical Reviews” in Food Science and Nutrition, this research team presented nine obesity myths along with 10 unproven presumptions which they believe ultimately led to inaccurate government policies and public health recommendations — misleading Americans for years.
Allison’s research team was composed of international experts in both nutritian and obesity. They described each belief and offer plus evidence regarding why the belief is widely held. They then presented the arguments used to either support or refute the belief. They also presented evidence from randomized controlled trials when these were available.
Following we have quoted the nine obesity myths:
“1) Losing weight quickly will predispose to greater weight regain relative to losing weight more slowly. 2) Setting realistic weight loss goals in obesity treatment is important because otherwise patients will become frustrated and lose less weight. 3) Assessing “stage of change” or “readiness” to diet is important in helping patients who pursue weight loss treatment to lose weight. 4) Physical education classes, as currently delivered, play an important role in reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity. 5) Breastfeeding is protective against obesity in breastfed offspring. 6) Daily self-weighing interferes with weight loss. 7) Genes have not contributed to the obesity epidemic.
8) The freshman year of college is associated with or causes 15 pounds of weight gain. 9) Food deserts (i.e., areas with little or no access to stores offering fresh and affordable healthy foods, including produce) lead to higher obesity prevalence.”
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The following 10 presumptions from the research have been defined as beliefs that don’t have any definitive studies to support them. Again we are quoting these:
“The presumptions are:
1) Regularly eating (versus skipping) breakfast is protective against obesity. 2)Eating close to bedtime contributes to weight gain. 3) Eating more fruits and vegetables will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of whether one intentionally makes any other changes to one’s behavior or environment. 4) Weight cycling (i.e., yo-yo dieting) increases mortality rate. 5) Snacking contributes to weight gain and obesity. 6) The built environment, in terms of sidewalks and park availability, influences obesity. 7) Reducing screen time will decrease obesity in children. 8) Decreasing the portion sizes served leads to less food intake without people being told to reduce their food intake or presumably intending to do so, even when the total food available is not limited.
9) Participation in family mealtimes reduces obesity. 10) Drinking more water will reduce energy intake and will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of whether one intentionally makes any other changes to one’s behavior or environment.”
Today’s acceptance of obesity myths and presumptions can be attributed to a phenomenon that psychologists call the “mere exposure effect.” It happens because repeating a concept often enough makes people more likely to believe it. Another phenomenon called the “confirmation bias,” where humans systematically seek out just sources of information that confirm opinions.
The researchers recommended that “as a scientific community, we need to be honest with the public about what we know and don’t know as we evaluate proposed strategies for weight loss or obesity prevention.”
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Source: Based on materials provided by University of Alabama at Birmingham.