The Myths of Weight Loss? Not So Fast. new study from the New England Journal of Medicine is making a lot of headlines and leading to questions about what we know and don’t know about weight loss and obesity.

The authors discuss common myths and beliefs related to successful weight loss strategies they say are not supported by evidence.

This is an important topic for us because AICR’s first recommendation for cancer prevention is “to be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.” This is because overweight and obesity is a cause of seven cancers, including breast (postmenopausal), colorectal and endometrial.

While this article is provocative, several of the authors’ myths and presumptions, as written, are not actually what health professionals are saying. For example:

Myth 1: Small sustained changes in energy intake or expenditure will produce large, long-term weight changes.

The key words used here are “large, long-term” weight changes. The idea behind small and sustained changes in diet and physical activity is that this is a way to get started – and to begin to build up to larger changes which in turn will help with long-term meaningful weight loss. James O. Hill, Ph.D. is one researcher who promotes this idea based on his published research. This study showed that a small change (reducing 100 calories per day) does result in a lower intake in the short term. Others have shown small changes leading to weight loss that was maintained 9 months later.

Presumption 3: Eating more fruits and vegetables will result in weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of whether any other changes to one’s behavior or environment are made.

The message from AICR, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other health organizations is to replace higher calorie foods, like fried foods or high fat meats, with vegetables and fruits. These lower calorie foods help with weight control and they help reduce risk of several cancers such as oral, esophageal and stomach.

There are strong long-term studies to support making small changes and including vegetables and fruits in your diet to promote weight loss and prevent weight gain. Last year, I wrote about one year-long study looking at what behavior changes added up to weight loss – one of the strategies that worked was eating more vegetables and fruit.

Weight loss is a long term process, and certainly no one thing is a magic bullet, but starting with one small step puts you on a healthier path.  So don’t let one study dissuade you from taking the kind of steps that will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.