Myths, presumptions, and facts about obesity.

New England Journal of Medicine

PubMedID: 23363498

Casazza K, Fontaine KR, Astrup A, Birch LL, Brown AW, Bohan Brown MM, Durant N, Dutton G, Foster EM, Heymsfield SB, McIver K, Mehta T, Menachemi N, Newby PK, Pate R, Rolls BJ, Sen B, Smith DL, Thomas DM, Allison DB. Myths, presumptions, and facts about obesity. N Engl J Med. 2013;368(5):446-54.
BACKGROUND
Many beliefs about obesity persist in the absence of supporting scientific evidence (presumptions); some persist despite contradicting evidence (myths). The promulgation of unsupported beliefs may yield poorly informed policy decisions, inaccurate clinical and public health recommendations, and an unproductive allocation of research resources and may divert attention away from useful, evidence-based information.

METHODS
Using Internet searches of popular media and scientific literature, we identified, reviewed, and classified obesity-related myths and presumptions. We also examined facts that are well supported by evidence, with an emphasis on those that have practical implications for public health, policy, or clinical recommendations.

RESULTS
We identified seven obesity-related myths concerning the effects of small sustained increases in energy intake or expenditure, establishment of realistic goals for weight loss, rapid weight loss, weight-loss readiness, physical-education classes, breast-feeding, and energy expended during sexual activity. We also identified six presumptions about the purported effects of regularly eating breakfast, early childhood experiences, eating fruits and vegetables, weight cycling, snacking, and the built (i.e., human-made) environment. Finally, we identified nine evidence-supported facts that are relevant for the formulation of sound public health, policy, or clinical recommendations.

CONCLUSIONS
False and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive in both scientific literature and the popular press. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.).