The Jan. 31, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine had an important article regarding obesity. A group of researchers, funded by the National Institutes of Health, reviewed the evidence on “Myths, Presumptions and Facts about Obesity”. Over the next three blogs I intend to review these three categories and share the findings of the study.
Seven myths regarding obesity were identified:
1.Small sustained changes in energy intake or expenditures will produce large, long-term weight changes. Many of you may have heard that 3,500 calories equals one pound, which would predict that walking one mile each day (100 calories of energy expended) would lead to a 50 pound weight loss. This is appealing, but not true.
2. Setting realistic goals for weight loss is important, because otherwise patients will become frustrated and lose less weight. Some studies have even shown that ambitious goals are sometimes more successful in spurring weight loss.
3. Large, rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term weight loss outcomes, as compared with slow, gradual weight loss. The data indicates there is no difference.
4. It is important to assess the stage of change or diet readiness in order to help patients who request weight loss treatment. The message to physicians, therefore, is to counsel all patients regarding a healthy BMI, not just those who request help.
5.Physical education classes in their current form, play an important role in reducing or preventing childhood obesity. However, even though the classes themselves do not lead to weight loss, the habits and attitudes they impart may be valuable in lifelong weight optimization.
6.Breast feeding is protective against obesity. There are MANY reasons to encourage breast feeding, but long-term protection against obesity is not one of them.
7. A bout of sexual activity burns 100-300 calories for each participant, the real answer is 21 calories, which is three times as much as the seven calories you would have burnt off by simply watching television.
This is not to say that the above measures may not be good for you or your family, so don’t throw any of these out if they have worked in the past or if they make you feel good. However, from a public health and policy perspective, we should be putting our energy into other policies.
Next week I will review the author’s findings on presumptions-widely held beliefs for which there is no significant supporting or refuting evidence.