Obesity myths hinder fight against epidemic

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - True or false: PE classes in schools will irradiate childhood obesity.

"Well in fact, they don't. They're important and physical exercise and education is important, but simply implementing classes in schools will not correct the obesity epidemic," explained Executive Director of Louisiana's Pennington Biomedical Research Center Dr. Steven Heymsfield.

True or false: Reducing your calorie intake by a small amount each day, like 100 calories, leads to major weight loss in the long run.

"In fact, the amount you lose is quite small because the body adapts to losing weight. So it doesn't function the way that you expect it to," said Heymsfield.

Those are just two of seven obesity myths that many people use as guidelines to fight the epidemic. For several years a team of researchers, including some from Pennington, have been working to identify and bust widely accepted assumptions about weight and health.

"Often it starts in the scientific literature as an idea. People read about these ideas and it gets into the press and then in modern times it gets into the internet and it goes viral and people just read these web sites and they take it as face value that these are accurate assumptions," said Heymsfield.

Heymsfield says the danger of these myths is that they are used to direct public policy, making it harder to fight obesity.

The biggest assumption could be that there is a simple, one step solution to getting rid of obesity.

"Body weight of the population as a whole is a function of hundreds of different factors all the way from the number of sidewalks we have to the kind of foods we eat. It's changing all these things that's really going to make a difference," he said.

Researchers hope that shedding light on what is fact and what is fiction, will lead to better policies and guidelines to help reduce obesity rates.

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