Myths & Facts

Myth #1: People only become obese and overweight because they do not engage in weight loss efforts including physical activity and have unhealthy eating habits.

Fact: It is important to remember that obesity is not always a behavioral issue. Although physical activity and eating habits are major contributors to obesity, there are other elements to consider in evaluating the causes of obesity. In many instances, weight loss and management efforts require a balanced combination of behavioral change and medical/scientific evaluation and intervention. In addition, hormone disorders – such as those related to the thyroid, adrenal glands, pituitary glands, and ovaries – can contribute to obesity.

Myth #2: Obesity is only prevalent in developed countries that foster indulgent lifestyles, with poor diets and lack of exercise, like the United States and the United Kingdom.

Fact: In economically advanced regions of developing countries, prevalence rates of obesity may be as high as rates in industrialized countries. Contrary to popular opinion, in developing countries – where malnutrition levels are high – there are also reported cases of obesity. While the causes of obesity are still under investigation, researchers hypothesize that rising obesity rates in developing countries may be due to societal changes such as greater food consumption and genetic adaptations that impact metabolism. In addition, a recent study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that reducing malnutrition in pregnant women could prevent childhood obesity. The theory is that under-nutrition in the womb may adversely affect a fetus’ metabolism – essentially training the child’s metabolism to conserve, rather than use, calories – thus predisposing the childhood and adult obesity.

Myth #3: Once committed to a weight-loss regimen, obese individuals should attempt to lose a large amount of weight as quickly as possible.

Fact: Actually, weight loss – especially fast weight loss (more than three pounds per week) or loss of a large amount of weight – can increase the risk of developing gallstones. Maintaining a steady regimen of about one to two pounds a week over time is more sustainable and less likely to cause gallstones.

Myth #4: Weight gain in women over time is healthy and part of a natural aging process.

Fact: Although metabolism may change over time, weight gain of more than 20 pounds is not a normal part of the maturation process and may actually increase a woman’s risk of obesity-related disease. According to a recent report on overweight and obesity published by the office of the U.S. Surgeon General, women gaining more than 20 pounds between age 18 and midlife double their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer compared with women whose weight remains stable.

Myth #5: Osteoarthritis only develops when an individual gains a large amount of weight over a short time period.

Fact: Timing is not a major factor in the development of osteoarthritis. For every two-pound increase in weight, the risk of developing arthritis is increased by nine to 13 percent.

Addressing Diet Fads

The Endocrine Society and The Hormone Foundation  do not endorse the use of fad or “quick-fix” diets as appropriate weight loss methods.

Rather, as organizations whose actions and recommendations for weight loss management are based on scientific evidence, the Society and the Foundation support healthy weight loss through the proven combination of increased physical exercise and a balanced diet and meal portion control, undertaken with the cooperation and support of your healthcare provider.

Although each individual’s body chemistry and eating habits vary, the optimal rate for a weight loss diet for most people is no more than one to two pounds a week. Diet programs or weight-loss regimens that promise greater results should be discussed with the patient’s doctor.

The Endocrine Society and The Hormone Foundation encourage all individuals to take a proactive role in their health, including regular visits with his or her physician.