13 Myths and Presumptions about Obesity

Do you know the difference between a myth and presumption? A myth is a belief that persists despite contradictory evidence; a presumption is a belief that exists without supporting evidence. It’s a minor distinction that underlies a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity.” You may find yourself surprised by obesity-related “facts” that, due to lack of evidence, fall into either of these two categories.Table 1

As authors note, it’s critical to recognize that these seven beliefs are myths, contradicted by research, so that we may move beyond them. In addition, understanding that the following six obesity-related “facts” are, in reality, presumptions unfounded in strong evidence will direct further studies aimed at collecting rigorous data to support or refute them.

Table 2Why, then, do we continue to believe myths and presumptions about obesity when the evidence doesn’t support them? Factors such as media exposure, conflicting and/or non-rigorous evidence, inadequate study methodology, personal bias, and over-reliance on anecdotal experience may confound our ability to critically evaluate health and nutrition claims. In addition, with a variety of mechanisms through which we obtain news and knowledge, it is increasingly difficult to discriminate between established facts, myths and perceptions. Consequently, it becomes ever more challenging to make informed decisions and choices about our health.

To read more about obesity myths and presumptions, as well as learn about 9 facts substantiated by solid evidence, visit the original article: Casazza et al. 2013; NEJM 368(5): 446-454.


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