New Study Addresses Obesity Myths

Doctor with Stethoscope Holding Red Measuring Tape.Many of us have our facts or assumptions about weight loss or obesity that come from friends, your doctor, magazines or TV shows, like mine. However, some of those facts may be wrong – even some that doctors, like myself, believed!

A group of doctors published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, which claims that what we may have assumed about obesity may be wrong. I applaud the authors for trying to make sense of a maelstrom of obesity facts and myths, many of which have not been supported by empirical data. Some of those obesity-related myths are:

Small, sustained lifestyle changes in “energy intake or expenditure” (e.g. diet and exercise) will produce large long-term weight changes.
“You will lose 50 pounds if walk a mile a day for 5 years.”
The researchers claim this isn’t true because much of the previous research that suggests this is true has been performed on men who were on very low diets over short periods of time. However, your body reacts differently to calorie or exercise modifications over time. For example if you walk a mile a day for 5 years, you’ll lose weight for sure, but not 50 pounds. The researchers suggest your true weight loss would be about 10 pounds because as you lose weight, your body’s energy needs adjust accordingly and you lose less weight in the long run.

Physical education classes, in the current form, play an important role in preventing or reducing childhood obesity.
“If schools allotted more time to phys ed classes, we could cure or prevent childhood obesity”
This shocked me. However, the authors’ rationale comes from “three studies that focused on expanding time in physical education,” which failed to show a significant change in the BMI or prevalence of obesity among children. However, this does not mean that physical activity is useless for children. The question here is the level of activity or its level of incorporation in children’s everyday lives.

Sexual activity can burn 100 to 300 calories for each person.
The authors suggest that sex only burns around 21 calories per person (assuming the average time of sexual activity is 6 minutes). While disappointing, that’s still more calories burned than that from watching television.

Read about more obesity myths that the researchers addressed. And check out the myths I’ve debunked on my show.