To find that a belief had clear evidence, one way or another, there had to be randomized controlled experiments -- the gold standard of research -- supporting or refuting it. Unclear evidence meant there were ambiguous studies, old randomized experiments or just observational evidence.
The researchers also looked at presumptions related to obesity, such as the value of eating breakfast, early childhood habits, the value of fruits and vegetables, yo-yo dieting, snacking, and sidewalk and park availability.
All these topics lacked randomized, controlled studies to support commonly held beliefs, according to the study.
"My surprise [in doing this research] was if you really hold to a scientific level -- what do we know with certainty -- it was low," Allison said. What's needed, he said, are more randomized trials related to obesity.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian and program manager at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, in Ohio, said she's concerned that research emphasizing the myths associated with obesity will discourage people who need to lose weight.
"I want people to know it's worth trying, it's worth taking steps," she said. "Our lives are so busy and so full, it takes effort to make a commitment to this."
So, what really works when it comes to losing weight? Allison said strategies shown to be ef
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