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obesity myths


Obesity Myths

Photo by ParentingPatch

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study from a team of doctors working at the University of Alabama Birmingham called Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity.  The gist of the article is that when it comes to the “scientific” literature, there are more myths and half truths concerning obesity than you can shake a stick at.   I would love to tell you that I am shocked by this, but I have been exposing many of these myths for years.  In fact, I write so much about this general topic that sometimes I feel like Adam & Jamie of MYTHBUSTERS should be calling me (HERE).  In this study, “myths” were defined as, “claims that persist despite contradicting evidence” — a real problem for those wrapped up in the false claims of EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE
“When the public, mass media, government agencies, and even academic scientists espouse unsupported beliefs, the result may be ineffective policy, unhelpful or unsafe clinical and public health recommendations, and an unproductive allocation of resources.”  Dr. David Allison and his team, from the latest issue of NEJM
Before I show you the list of some of the myths that Allison’s team of doctors came up with, I want you to take a look at their Disclosure Statement.  Take just a moment and look at who is sponsoring / has sponsored these doctor’s various projects.  This is particularly relevant in light of the study that came out of the British Medical Journal on Thursday — a topic for another day.

As you’ll quickly notice, it seems that almost everyone is trying to help the doctors on Dr. Allison’s team scrape by to the end of the month.  This study is so financially conflicted (COI), it’s almost impossible to know where to begin.  But this is nothing new in the field of medical research (HERE).  If you really think that individuals being paid good money by Big Pharma (GLAXOSMITHKLINE, PFIZER, Eli Lilly & Company, Merck, and several others others), Big Mac (McDonald’s), Big Sugar (Coke, Pepsi, Red Bull, World Sugar Research Organization, Wrigley, and Mars), Big Dairy (Global Dairy Platform / European Dairy Foundation / International Dairy Foundation), Big Beef (The American Cattleman’s Association), Big GRAIN (General Mills / ADM / United Soybean Board / Northarvest Bean Growers Association), Big Brew (The Knowledge Institute for Beer), Big Insurance, (Aetna), and Big People trying to get smaller (Jenny Craig), can be trusted to provide unbiased conclusions, I have some ocean front property in Arizona that I would just looooooove to sell you —- cheap!   This is the reason it is difficult to trust anything coming out of the medical community (look at the link above on EBM)!

The truth is, these doctors should be embarrassed to put their name on something this conflicted.  And NEJM should be embarrassed to publish something this conflicted as ‘research’.  But hey; even embarrassment has its price.  By the way, What you are going to see is not the actual Disclosure Statement from NEJM — it’s incomplete.   The actual Disclosure Statement only comes if you pay for the full version of the study.


  • Dr. Astrup reports receiving payment for board membership from the Global Dairy Platform, Kraft Foods, Knowledge Institute for Beer, McDonald’s Global Advisory Council, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Basic Research, Novo Nordisk, Pathway Genomics, Jenny Craig, and Vivus; receiving lecture fees from the Global Dairy Platform, Novo Nordisk, Danish Brewers Association, GlaxoSmithKline, Danish Dairy Association, International Dairy Foundation, European Dairy Foundation, and AstraZeneca; owning stock in Mobile Fitness; holding patents regarding the use of flaxseed mucilage or its active component for suppression of hunger and reduction of prospective consumption (patents EP1744772, WO2009033483-A1, EP2190303-A1, US2010261661-A1, and priority applications DK001319, DK001320, S971798P, and US971827P); holding patents regarding the use of an alginate for the preparation of an aqueous dietary product for the treatment or prevention of overweight and obesity (patent WO2011063809-A1 and priority application DK070227); and holding a patent regarding a method for regulating energy balance for body-weight management (patent WO2007062663-A1 and priority application DK001710).
  • Drs. Brown and Bohan Brown report receiving grant support from the Coca-Cola Foundation through their institution.
  • Dr. Mehta reports receiving grant support from Kraft Foods.
  • Dr. Newby reports receiving grant support from General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.
  • Dr. Pate reports receiving consulting fees from Kraft Foods.
  • Dr. Rolls reports having a licensing agreement for the Volumetrics trademark with Jenny Craig.
  • Dr. Thomas reports receiving consulting fees from Jenny Craig.
  • Lead Author Dr. Allison reports serving as an unpaid board member for the International Life Sciences Institute of North America; receiving payment for board membership from Kraft Foods; receiving consulting fees from Vivus, Ulmer and Berne, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, Garrison, Chandler Chicco, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, National Cattlemen’s Association, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Frontiers Foundation, Orexigen Therapeutics, and Jason Pharmaceuticals; receiving lecture fees from Porter Novelli and the Almond Board of California; receiving payment for manuscript preparation from Vivus; receiving travel reimbursement from International Life Sciences Institute of North America; receiving other support from the United Soybean Board and the Northarvest Bean Growers Association; receiving grant support through his institution from Wrigley, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, Vivus, Jason Pharmaceuticals, Aetna Foundation, and McNeil Nutritionals; and receiving other funding through his institution from the Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull, World Sugar Research Organisation, Archer Daniels Midland, Mars, Eli Lilly and Company, and Merck.


  • GENETIC FACTORS ARE THE BE ALL, END ALL CONCERNING ONE’S WEIGHT:     Who would deny that genes are not a significant factor in this whole issue of body weight and body types.  However, we have learned from the field of EPIGENETICS that there are any number of factors that have the ability to turn genes off or on.  In other words, we are not defined solely by our genome to nearly the extent we have been led to believe.  However, the ‘my-genes-made-me-do-it‘ excuse became quite popular over the past few decades.   Because it is so easily used and is shrouded in a form of scientific mystique that few people really understand, it tends to be the major cop out for those who are unwilling to radically change their lifestyles.   In fact, it’s become a convenient excuse for just about anything and everything. 

  • IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT, JUST RESTRICT YOUR CALORIES:  Listen up folks.  I busted this myth just a couple weeks ago with a blog post called, OBESITY AND YOUR ENDOCRINE SYSTEM.  Just prior to that, I dealt with SUGAR & CARB ADDICTIONS and their effect on weight.  If you want to get serious about losing weight, you had better understand that restricting calories (or even counting calories), is going to get you nowhere fast.   If you are serious about losing weight and getting in great physical condition, HERE is the way to do it.


  • EXERCISE IS A HUGE FACTOR IN ONE’S WEIGHT:   While I believe that there is certainly merit in looking into the “mythology” of this statement, just YESTERDAY I told you that getting in shape and staying in shape (maintaining your optimal weight) is probably 90% diet and 10% exercise. Many people, however, seem to have these numbers reversed in their heads.  The truth is, many people train themselves to death, causing undue ADRENAL STRESS and elevating their Cortisol in the process.  How do you avoid this issue?  You simply TRAIN SMARTER.  I am getting ready to do a blog post on this very topic from a recent article in Outdoors Magazine on the training methods of Brian Mackenzie of CrossFit Endurance called The Agony and the Heresy.


  • SEX BURNS BETWEEN 100 AND 300 CALORIES:  All I can say is what a way to train!  Unfortunately, it is a shame that this is a myth.   The average sexual encounter is going to burn far fewer calories than this.  But then again; who wants to be average?  If you are having problems in this area, READ THIS.


  • GETTING PARENTS INVOLVED CAN HELP A CHILD LOSE WEIGHT OR MAINTAIN A NORMAL WEIGHT:  I am not sure I am buying that this is necessarily a myth — especially if people are parenting like they ought to be parenting.  However, in too many households, the inmates are running the asylum, choosing to eat a diet of whatever they can con mom into buying for them.  Unfortunately, most children don’t yet see the wisdom in choosing Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli over Big Macs, Twinkies, and Coca Cola.  Too many parents are unknowingly promoting unhealthy foods as healthy foods — or simply giving there kids whatever they want.  There is no doubt in my mind that lots of parents are MAKING THEIR KIDS FAT and AUTOIMMUNE.


  • SCHOOL P.E. LEADS TO WEIGHT LOSS:  Although it has been a long time since I was in PE, I must admit that PE was rarely physically taxing.   But even if it were, trying to overcome SCHOOL LUNCHES can be a real challenge.  Parents, get your kids active from the time they are little.  Seriously limit screen time and whatever is necessary to move — and no; I am not promoting Michelle here.


  • MEAL REPLACEMENTS OR SPECIFIC FOODS WILL HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT:  Oh, they’ll help you lose weight all right.  Just not for the long haul. Not to pick on the woman, but Oprah can personally vouch that this is a myth.  Look ,for instance, at the meal replacement drink Ensure.  It is a 10 oz bottle with enough sugar in it to start an ant farm —- 40 grams.  Not only will this stuff not help you lose weight over the long haul, it is only a short matter of time before the folks who FAIL TO CONTROL THEIR BLOOD SUGAR have gained it all back —- and then some.


  • STOMACH STAPLING / REDUCING SURGERIES HELP PEOPLE LOSE WEIGHT FOR THE LONG TERM, WHILE LOWERING THE DEATH RATE AND PREVENTING DIABETES:  These surgeries are a risky endeavor (HERE).  I personally know people who have had their lives messed up by this surgery.  Think long and hard before going under the knife in the hopes of losing weight.  Despite that fact that doctors are using “research” to promote it, the internet is full of websites and message boards warning against it.  Hopefully, this post gave you a taste of how conflicted some of these research projects are.


  • WEIGHT LOSS DRUGS ARE A SAFE AND EFFECTIVE WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT:  This is a no-brainer that I have addressed before (HERE).  Many of these drugs are similar to the Methamphetamine-like drugs used to treat ADHD such as Ritalin or Adderall.


  • BREAST FEEDING PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS:  I do not hear this one floating around as much as I used to. I would assume though, that there is probably some degree of truth to this statement if a woman is eating a healthy diet.


  • RAPID WEIGHT LOSS IS UNHEALTHY:  It does not really depend on how rapidly you lose the weight, it depends on how you lose weight rapidly.  HERE is a safe and effective way to lose 100 lbs in 100 days.  No; I have never used it myself.  No; not everyone is going to lose 100 lbs in 100 days on this protocol.   But the concept is simple, and I endorse it wholeheartedly.


  • THE STUDY’S CONCLUSIONS?  “False and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive in both scientific literature and the popular press.”  Yes it’s true; and it’s not just true about this particular study.   The scientific literature is chocked full of BS that cannot be trusted under the best of circumstances.  And under the worst of circumstances…….?   How do you call science, science, when it is as obviously bought and paid for as this study is?  I’m a capitalist.  I do not want to take away anyone’s right to earn a good living.  However, despite the fact that I believe most of this study is right on the money, the obvious Conflicts of Interest that were present, should, at the very least, raise some red flags concerning its validity.

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