Beyond Myths: Obesity Facts from NEJM

Predictably, the media was full of busted obesity myths today from the New England Journal of Medicine, with plenty of attention to how many calories sexual activity burns. But the well-established obesity facts  from the same article were pretty much ignored.

Judging from responses of obesity experts, like Yoni Freedhoff and The Obesity Society, a focus on what we really know would be worthwhile. Freedhoff commented in his popular Weighty Mattters blog, “I agree almost wholeheartedly with the ‘Facts’ section” of the NEJM article, but he took issue with some other aspects of the publication. Speaking on behalf of The Obesity Society, Advocacy Chair Ted Kyle commented, “We applaud the study’s authors for highlighting what we know about obesity by pointing to facts well supported by scientific literature…it’s our goal to move from research to education to action, combating the obesity epidemic head on.”

Taking a cue from the experts, here are nine obesity facts, highlighted in the NEJM, that should shape our response to obesity.

  1. Genetic factors play a large role in obesity, but heritability is not destiny. Moderate environmental changes can promote as much weight loss as the most efficacious pharmaceutical agents available.
  2. Diets very effectively reduce weight, but trying to go on a diet or recommending a diet generally does not work well in the long-term.
  3. Regardless of body weight or weight loss, an increased level of exercise increases health.
  4. Physical activity at a sufficient level helps with long-term weight maintenance.
  5. Sticking with something that works for weight loss helps to maintain a lower weight.
  6. For children with excess weight, programs that involve the parents and the home yield better weight outcomes.
  7. Structured meal replacement programs and products yield more weight loss than less structured meals.
  8. Obesity treatment drugs can help patients achieve and maintain meaningful weight loss for as long as they are used.
  9. For people with severe obesity, bariatric surgery can be a life-changing and, in some cases, life-saving treatment.

Click here to read the Weighty Matters blog, here to read The Obesity Societystatement, and here to access the article in the NEJM.

Truth and Falsehood by Alfred Stevens, image © Iza Bella / Wikimedia