Weight Loss Myths Are Abundant

Seemingly every newly proposed weight loss idea or fad is followed by a slew of unproven assumptions. Some accuse obese people of automatically being guilty of living on fast food and high fructose corn syrup, and others are touting how someone miraculously dropped 50 pounds over a few months while living exclusively on juice. Misleading conjecture leads to more confusion over what is actually healthy, creating further unhealthy thinking and patterns, according to researchers.

It is difficult to set the record straight with such an abundance of repeated myths. Misrepresenting health information as applicable to everyone; for example, assuming everyone should take aspirin daily to prevent strokes and heart attacks can lead to deaths. People don’t take into account medication interactions, the overall health of the person, and anemia and don’t seek valid medical advice.

Assuming everyone should live a low carbohydrate lifestyle or an exclusively fruitarian diet could have serious negative health implications to some. As in the case of Ashton Kutcher when he attempted to embody Steve Jobs dietary lifestyle and ended up in the hospital. Instead, he should have sought the advice of a clinical dietitian or nutritionist, a doctor, or thoroughly research extreme diets before starting one.

Dr. David B. Allison, who directs the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is trying to steer the accuracy of weight loss train back onto the tracks. In The New England Journal of Medicine, he and his colleagues lay out several myths, unsubstantiated presumptions about obesity, and facts that promise little in the way of a quick fix for those obsessed with rapid weight-loss. It dispels the prevalent confusion surrounding obesity. Experts in the field rejoice at an effort to dismiss these distortions.

Even professionals like Dr. Allison have fallen prey to the hype of some theories. He initially thought weighing oneself daily helped control weight. He checked for the conclusive studies he asserted had to exist to prove or support it. They did not.

Instead, people rely on weak or generalized studies to pattern their weight loss habits after. For example, it is commonly and repeatedly noted that people who eat breakfast are thinner. But based on that simple notion all people who eat breakfast should be skinny. They are not.

“My goodness, after 50-plus years of studying obesity … why don’t we know this answer?” Dr. Allison asked.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Friedman, a Rockefeller University obesity researcher, said:

“In my view, there is more misinformation pretending to be fact in this field than in any other I can think of.”

Steven N. Blair, an exercise and obesity researcher at the University of South Carolina, is concerned about how his own students believe many of the myths.

“I like to challenge my students. ‘Can you show me the data?’ Too often that doesn’t come into it.”

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