Monday, February 4, 2013

Obesity Mythology

I'm feeling a little bit happier about nutrition reporting today, and it's because I saw this article: Myths of Weight Loss are Plentiful and read this first paragraph:
"If schools reinstated physical education classes, a lot of fat children would lose weight. And they might never have gotten fat in the first place if their mothers had just breast fed them when they were babies. But be warned: obese people should definitely steer clear of crash diets. And they can lose more than 50 pounds in five years simply by walking a mile a day."

I was happy because it indicated someone else is trying to dispel myths and not trying to sell you his/her own mythology.    And I was happy that there was a link to the actual article itself so that people could compare what was actually said versus what was reported on (Link), as sometimes they are not the same thing.    And I also liked that one of the authors of the study admitted that everyone is vulnerable to logical fallacies, including confirmation bias, if we are not careful.  It gave me hope that there are still people who are good at communicating their skepticality out there.

One potential pitfall that I did see in reading the orginal article, however, is that people would look at one of the points (e.g. the one on school physical education programs not preventing obesity) and conclude that these behaviors have no value at all.  We have to remember that the authors of the study were looking at obesity, period, and that we can't say "school physical education programs have no value at all."  In other words, just because a particular behavior or program can't help with one thing doesn't mean that it is not useful at all, it just needs to be studied from another angle or other outcomes need to be looked at.

I also wanted to highlight this statement in the conclusion as well: "While we work to generate additional useful knowledge, we may in some cases justifiably move forward with hypothesized, but not proved, strategies. However, as a scientific community, we must always be open and honest with the public about the state of our knowledge and should rigorously evaluate unproved strategies."  In other words, sometimes we do have to move forward using what we know while acknowledging there is always someone out there working for a better designed study to improve our knowledge, because that's what we do in science.  And we all have to continually stop and re-evaluate where our own biases might be.

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