Weighing the Evidence of Common Beliefs in Obesity Research

Krista Casazza, Andrew Brown, Arne Astrup, Fredrik Bertz, Charles Baum, Michelle Bohan Brown, John Dawson, Nefertiti Durant, Gareth Dutton, David A. Fields, Kevin R. Fontaine, Steven Heymsfield, David Levitsky, Tapan Mehta, Nir Menachemi, P. K. Newby, Russell Pate, Hollie Raynor, Barbara J. Rolls, Bisakha SenDaniel L. Smith, Diana Thomas, Brian Wansink, David B. Allison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Obesity is a topic on which many views are strongly held in the absence of scientific evidence to support those views, and some views are strongly held despite evidence to contradict those views. We refer to the former as “presumptions” and the latter as “myths.” Here, we present nine myths and 10 presumptions surrounding the effects of rapid weight loss; setting realistic goals in weight loss therapy; stage of change or readiness to lose weight; physical education classes; breastfeeding; daily self-weighing; genetic contribution to obesity; the “Freshman 15”; food deserts; regularly eating (versus skipping) breakfast; eating close to bedtime; eating more fruits and vegetables; weight cycling (i.e., yo-yo dieting); snacking; built environment; reducing screen time in childhood obesity; portion size; participation in family mealtime; and drinking water as a means of weight loss. For each of these, we describe the belief and present evidence that the belief is widely held or stated, reasons to support the conjecture that the belief might be true, evidence to directly support or refute the belief, and findings from randomized controlled trials, if available. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these determinations, conjecture on why so many myths and presumptions exist, and suggestions for limiting the spread of these and other unsubstantiated beliefs about the obesity domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2014-2053
Number of pages40
JournalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 6 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • myths
  • Obesity
  • presumption
  • research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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