Fairfax has a piece on myths about obesity that is sensible and properly science-based, and which they are promoting in the banner area of the front page? Maybe there’s something to all this approaching-2012-apocalypso after all.
The layout is better in the dead-tree edition, where the SMH felt no need to illustrate it with a headless torso as they have done in the web version (at least it’s not an OMGDeathFatz headless torso this time).
Gary Egger and Sam Egger originally published a version of this article in Australian Family Physician, and the gist is this:
We assessed the best available evidence on weight loss and maintenance and used this to compile a 20-statement survey – with true or false responses – which we then gave to two groups of people: 173 GPs and 129 truck drivers and tradesmen.
We found doctors were almost as confused as truckies and tradies. The doctors disagreed with most of the supporting evidence on 40 per cent of our questions, the others on 49 per cent.
Another failing of the web edition is that it does not reproduce the table of results for the survey which is shown in the dead-tree edition. Here’s the data in the table seen in the dead-tree version reproduced manually using a spreadsheet:
|Tradesmen||Big Fat Lies||True/False||Doctors|
|%incorrect||SMH 2009/11/19 page 21||%incorrect|
|38||Fruit juice is about as fattening as beer||TRUE||20|
|80||Humans need 8 glasses of water a day||FALSE||79|
|43||Peanuts are a healthy food||TRUE||42|
|74||Dairy products can help weight loss||TRUE||73|
|33||A low protein diet is best for weight loss||FALSE||10|
|55||Fat people don’t get more hungry than lean people||TRUE||62|
|76||Chocolate is healthy provided it is ‘dark’||FALSE||45|
|27||Spicy foods make you eat more||FALSE||32|
|27||Vegetable juice is healthier than fruit juice||TRUE||34|
|34||Coffee causes cancer||FALSE||28|
|49||Sit ups will not help reduce fat off the waist||TRUE||49|
|77||Exercise is better than dieting for weight loss||FALSE||60|
|52||Swimming is better than walking for weight loss||FALSE||27|
|69||Weight lifting is good for fat loss||TRUE||62|
|77||The best measure of body fat is body mass index||FALSE||23|
|39||You lose more weight doing exercise you are good at||FALSE||56|
|68||An obese person can be fit and healthy||TRUE||47|
|34||You have to ‘bust a gut’ to lose a gut||FALSE||33|
|25||Sauna baths are good for fat loss||FALSE||10|
|8||Exercise can increase depression||FALSE||2|
It’s depressing to think that nearly 3 out of 4 in both groups believe incorrectly that dairy products do not help weight loss, that more than 1 in 2 in both groups believe incorrectly that fat people get more hungry than lean people, that roughly 2 in 3 in both groups do not know that weight lifting is good for burning fat while nearly 1 in 2 believe incorrectly that sit-ups will burn abdominal fat. On the other hand, at least 3 out of 4 doctors agreed that BMI is not a good measure of body fat, which seems to represent some sort of progress with the medical education on that even if it hasn’t trickled down to Joe Tradesman.
On the gripping hand, doctors don’t seem to have absorbed much in the way of basic biomechanics, believing falsely that one loses more weight doing exercise that you are good at, while the truckies/tradies seem to know the truth – the better you are at something the more efficient you are, therefore the less energy you will burn while doing it. (This effect is possibly/probably confounded somewhat by the aspect that if you are good at something you are more likely to enjoy doing it, and are therefore more likely to do it for longer and thus burn more energy than doing something else for a shorter interval, so this question is not as clear-cut as perhaps the authors intended).