Myths, presumptions, and facts about obesity

Krista Casazza, Kevin R. Fontaine, Arne Astrup, Leann L. Birch, Andrew W. Brown, Michelle M. Bohan Brown, Nefertiti Durant, Gareth Dutton, E. Michael Foster, Steven B. Heymsfield, Kerry McIver, Tapan Mehta, Nir Menachemi, P. K. Newby, Russell Pate, Barbara J. Rolls, Bisakha Sen, Daniel L. Smith, Diana M. Thomas, David B. Allison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

273 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-454
Number of pages9
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Volume368
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 31 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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    Casazza, K., Fontaine, K. R., Astrup, A., Birch, L. L., Brown, A. W., Bohan Brown, M. M., Durant, N., Dutton, G., Foster, E. M., Heymsfield, S. B., McIver, K., Mehta, T., Menachemi, N., Newby, P. K., Pate, R., Rolls, B. J., Sen, B., Smith, D. L., Thomas, D. M., & Allison, D. B. (2013). Myths, presumptions, and facts about obesity. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(5), 446-454. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa1208051