The Truth about Weight Loss

The truth about weight loss

Many so-called ‘facts’ about weight loss persist even when the science shows they are not correct. A group of scientists has now published a review of these myths and presents the science that clearly shows what is and is not correct.

This review was published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine by 20 experienced and well-respected researchers in the field of nutrition and weight research.

The researchers identified 13 obesity-related myths. They presented the science on why these common perceptions weren’t true. Here are a couple, you might be surprised on what they found.


Yo-yo dieting is associated with increased mortality

  • Death rates among people with fluctuating weights are no higher than for people with stable weight
  • Further, weight cycling doesn’t appear to slow the metabolism or make it harder to lose weight in future


Setting realistic goals in obesity treatment is important because otherwise patients will become frustrated and lose less weight

  • Studies show there is no consistent negative association between ambitious goals and program completion
  • Several studies have shown that more ambitious goals are sometimes associated with better weight loss outcomes


Large, rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term outcomes than is slow, gradual weight loss

  • This notion probably emerged in reaction to the adverse effects of nutritionally insufficient very-low-calorie diets (<800 kcal per day) in the 1960s; the belief has persisted, has been repeated in textbooks and recommendations from health authorities, and has been offered as a rule by dietitians
  • Within weight-loss trials, more rapid and greater initial weight loss has been associated with lower body weight at the end of long-term follow-up

And now, some FACTS that the same researchers published in the same journal. You might find some of these very surprising too…


Genetics is not destiny

  • Although genetic factors are important, environmental changes (what we eat and how we move) can promote as much weight loss as the most effective and most expensive pharmaceuticals on the market


Regardless of body weight or weight loss, an increased level of exercise improves health

  • Exercise mitigates the health-damaging effects of obesity, even without weight loss. There is acceptance that ‘fat but fit’ people are less likely to suffer a range of serious health problems than their thinner yet inactive counterparts


For overweight children, programs that involve the parents and the home setting are more effective

  • School based exercise and nutrition programs are convenient and often politically favoured but initiatives in the home yield much better results


In appropriate patients, bariatric surgery results in reductions in diabetes incidence and all-cause mortality

  • In severely obese patients surgery can offer significant benefit however its long term efficacy is underpinned by lifestyle changes

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