Hello. I am Dr. Sandra Fryhofer. Welcome to Medicine Matters.
The topic: obesity myths and a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Here is why it matters. Magazines are filled with fad diets promising quick and easy ways to lose weight. The truth is, when it comes to losing weight ,there is a lot of misinformation. A new study conducted by an international team of doctors, dieticians, and experts, funded by the National Institutes of Health, debunks some of these weight loss myths.
The first myth was picked up by the media big time.
The myth? Having sex burns lots of calories. The truth? Sex may be great, but it's not that great for burning calories. This opinion is based on a study done in 1984, which measured calories burned during this activity for 30 men. According to this study, the 300-calories-for-sex rule is a myth. Six minutes of sex -- and that is on average how long it takes -- burns only about 21 calories, which is only 14 more calories than watching TV.
Next myth: Breastfeeding protects your child from obesity later in life. Breastfeeding is best for baby; there is no doubt about that. It creates a special bond between mother and child. Breast milk has all the nutrients baby needs to be healthy. It contains substances that help your baby fight infections, but it won't keep your baby from getting fat, says a 6-year randomized clinical trial that followed more than 13,000 children. This myth was also dispelled by a recent JAMA study of 17,000 mothers and their infants who were breastfed. Follow-up when the kids turned 12 found that breastfeeding did not prevent them from becoming obese or overweight. That is why we moms have to lead by example and encourage exercise activity and healthy eating habits for our children.
Next is one that we have all heard: It is best to set reasonable, sensible, attainable goals. You will be more successful because you won't get frustrated. Sounds reasonable enough, but the expert panel said, "Malarkey." Sometimes bigger goals can mean better results. In fact, people who set more ambitious expectations often lose the most weight even if they don't reach their goal. This study also undermines presumptions that snacking leads to weight gain and that eating breakfast protects against obesity.
The expert panel did come up with their own list of obesity truths.
- Genetic factors play a role, but they are not the whole story.
- Environmental changes can make a difference.
- Regardless of your weight, exercise is a win-win to help lose weight and gain health.
- Involving parents and focusing on home settings can help overweight children.
Structured meal plans and meal replacements can be helpful. The panel also acknowledged that medications and weight loss surgery are necessary for some.
At the end of the day, you are left with an equation: the difference between calories in and calories burned.
Losing weight means using more calories than you consume each day, but with many complex variables. And as you lose weight, those variables change. Losing weight isn't easy.