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Study Shows Weight-Loss Myths Abound
Date:1/31/2013

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Some of the most popular assumptions about weight loss are just not true, a new study finds.

Researchers sought the supporting scientific evidence for a variety of widely believed truths about obesity. They found that false and scientifically unsupported beliefs about the topic are pervasive in both the scientific literature and the popular press.

Try to identify the myths in this list:

  • Small changes in your diet or exercise can cause steady and sustained weight loss.
  • Setting realistic goals is important.
  • Slow, gradual weight loss is better than large, rapid weight loss.
  • If you wait until you feel ready to lose weight, you'll succeed.
  • Physical education classes now help prevent or reduce childhood obesity.
  • Breast-feeding helps prevent obesity.
  • An act of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 calories.

The study, published Jan. 31 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that none of these statements had enough evidence to support them as fact.

"This is a wake-up call. We need to remember to ask where the data are even when an idea makes sense," said study author David Allison, director of the nutrition obesity research center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Because people feel some familiarity with the topic, they may be less prone to question assumptions related to obesity, said Allison. "After all, everybody eats."

Allison is concerned that sloppy science associated with the topic of obesity leads individuals astray as they struggle to lose weight. He also believes it negatively affects public health because programs that won't work receive funding.

"It's an ethical obligation to be honest. It's great to be enthusiastic, as long as you're promoting something you know is true," he said.

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