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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Examines Common Beliefs in Obesity Research

Obesity is a topic about which many views are strongly held, even in the absence of scientific evidence to support those views — indeed, some views are strongly held despite evidence to the contrary. Referring to the former as “presumptions” and the latter as “myths,” Dr. Krista Casazza, assistant professor in the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Dr. David B. Allison, distinguished professor in UAB’s department of biostatistics and director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC); and fellow researchers presented 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; breast-feeding; 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.

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[Photo: Dr. David B. Allison and Dr. Krista Casazza]

Co-investigators on the study include UAB’s Dr. Andrew Brown, postdoctoral trainee in the NORC and the office of energetics; Dr. Michelle Bohan Brown, postdoctoral trainee in the NORC and department of nutrition sciences; Dr. John Dawson, postdoctoral trainee in the department of biostatistics, section on statistical genetics; Dr. Nefertiti Durant, associate professor in the department of pediatrics; Dr. Gareth R. Dutton, associate professor in the division of preventive medicine; Dr. Kevin R. Fontaine, professor and vice chair in the department of health behavior; Dr. Tapan Mehta, assistant professor in the department of physical therapy; Dr. Nir Menachemi, professor in the department of health care organization and policy (HCOP) and director in the doctoral of public health program; Dr. Bisakha Sen, professor in HCOP; and Dr. Daniel L. Smith, Jr., assistant professor in the department of nutrition sciences.

For each presumption and myth, the team described the belief and the 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. They concluded with a discussion of the implications of these determinations and conjecture on why so many myths and presumptions exist, as well as with suggestions for limiting the spread of these and other unsubstantiated beliefs about obesity domain. “Weighing the Evidence of Common Beliefs in Obesity Research” was published in June in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

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