Search

Debunked: 5 Weight loss myths that may (or may not) be true

Debunked: 5 Weight loss myths that may (or may not) be true

Eating Maggi 'pedas' is not the secret to weight loss

Text: Aria Nadkarni Alyssa Cheong

Image: Daria Shevtsova
Image: Victoria Alexandrova
Image: Tima Miroshnichenko

Want to lose weight without getting caught up in unsubstantiated trends? We’re breaking down five common beliefs to help you out

Claim #1: Eating chilli peppers and spicy food can speed up weight loss

  • Verdict: False

While it is true that capsaicin (what creates that ‘spicy’ sensation) can increase your metabolic rate and burn some calories, dietician Chris Mohr explains that this only occurs in those with a BMI over 25, and the calories lost are insignificant. In essence, the number of calories burned by eating capsaicin compounds is negligible, so unfortunately, eating a whole lot of Sriracha isn’t going to speed up your weight loss by very much. Also, be wary that consuming an excess of capsaicin-heavy compounds, especially if your body is not used to it, can cause stomach ulcers, acid reflux and other gastric issues—not worth the few calories you may perhaps drop.

Claim #2: Eating more protein speeds up metabolism and weight loss

  • Verdict: True

This seems to be true in numerous ways; during the process of breaking down and metabolizing proteins, your body can burn up to 80 to 100 calories a day. Proteins are also the main constituents of muscle, and consuming more protein can help maintain or increase muscle mass. This is useful knowledge as muscle tissue burns more calories (even at rest) than fat. Indirectly, this means the more protein you have, the more calories get burned. Additionally, studies have shown that protein also keeps your body full for longer periods of time, not only by curbing snacking habits but, as one study shows, also naturally reducing calorie consumption by over 400 calories. This links to diet specialist Tim Spector’s direction to avoid after-dinner snacking—perhaps having more protein for dinner will decrease the need for that extra nibble later in the night.

Claim #3: Skipping breakfast aids weight loss

  • Verdict: False

This myth is not only false but may have dangerous consequences—the saying that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' may just be true. A 2020 meta-analysis found that “skipping breakfast increases the rate of obesity”, and actually poses “higher fasting levels insulin levels, and higher total cholesterol levels.” At a baseline level, not only does breakfast curb cravings and satiate you for longer, it helps stabilise glucose levels; a study found that participants who skipped the first meal of the day had a greater glycemic response than those who did not skip breakfast, a quality that could add to weight gain in the ‘no-breakfast’ group.

Claim #4: Juice cleanses are an efficient way to lose weight

  • Verdict: False

This fad diet has only become increasingly popular in recent years as a quick, easy weight-loss method. However, juice cleanses involve ingesting a large amount of sugar, which can spike glucose levels and create an increased glycemic response—both of which are associated with weight gain. Moreover, juice cleanses can actually slow down your metabolism by putting your body in ‘starvation mode’, meaning that overall, your body burns fewer calories in order to conserve energy. In fact, most of the time, the weight your body is actually losing is just water weight, so even though the scales may show an exponential drop in numbers, the minute you return to a regular diet, the water weight will naturally return.

Claim #5: Eating more fibre can help you lose weight

  • Verdict: True

Soluble fibre does indeed ‘slow down how fast the stomach releases digested food into the gut’, keeping you feeling full and suppressing your appetite for longer. Like with protein, this indirect means of losing calories (through eating less frequently) is a more ‘natural’ way of losing weight. In addition, soluble fibre feeds good gut bacteria; one study suggested that greater gut biodiversity was linked with less belly fat being stored. The breakdown of fibre produces short-chain fatty acids; while more research is needed to fully understand the mechanism, scientists believe that consuming more short-chain fatty acids can reduce the amount of belly fat stored, or increase the rate at which a person burns fat.

Ultimately, while tips like increasing your protein intake and maximizing dietary fibre consumption can aid your weight loss journey, it’s important to remember that the only sure-fire way to lose weight is to maintain a consistent calorie deficit. Keep this in mind as you continue to work towards a sustainable, healthy diet to finally get that body that feels good to you.