Three Articles of Faith in Obesity
Faith – defined as an enduring belief in something that cannot be directly observed or proven – has played an undeniable role in human history that continues to this day. In the face of uncertainty or incomplete answers, we instinctively fall back on ideas that provide meaning and direction as we search for truth. And so it is that a few articles of faith about obesity remain strong, despite considerable uncertainty.
Let’s consider three of them.
- Junk Food. A deep conviction that junk food is behind the problem of excess obesity drives many efforts to reduce obesity. Many of those efforts target sugar-sweetened beverages as a bad actor in our diets. Right now, advocates for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages are doing a happy dance around a new study of the soda tax in Berkeley, California. Soda consumption is down.So strong is belief in the danger posed by this reviled junk food that no one seems to care about the more basic question. Sugar sweetened beverage consumption has been declining for a decade. When will obesity rates get the message and start going down?
Perhaps we should dig deeper into our understanding of junk food.
- Energy Balance. Obesity results from consuming more energy in food than a body uses. This article of faith could hardly be more simple on the surface. And yet, sorting out the science of energy balance is hardly simple. If you’re both smart and lucky enough to attend the YWM2016 convention in Washington, make sure you climb out of bed early on Saturday to hear Steve Blair present the opening session on re-thinking energy balance.
Understanding the complexity of energy balance is a work in progress.
- Personal Commitment. Belief in the importance of “readiness to change” for addressing obesity is deep and almost unshakable. And yet, this belief made the list of the top seven myths about obesity published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. Reliable measures of personal commitment absolutely do not predict the outcomes of people who receive bariatric surgery or other obesity treatments. Personal commitment might be a good thing, but by itself, it doesn’t cure obesity.
The biology of this chronic disease is pretty powerful. Good, evidence-based care makes a big difference.
So, keep the faith, but dig deeper for understanding, evidence, and facts. Otherwise, faith turns into bias and self-deception.
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August 26, 2016