Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Government Questions Obesity Scare

Government Questions Obesity Scare

Thursday, September 02, 2004

By Steven Milloy

It is virtually official U.S. government policy that obesity kills 300,000 people every year. But a new analysis by some brave federal researchers exposes this factoid for what it really is — junk science.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said last March, “Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us.”

Thompson made that remark on the occasion of the release of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that poor diet and lack of physical activity caused 400,000 deaths in 2000 — up from 300,000 in 1990 and on par with the supposed 435,000 annual deaths attributed to smoking. That is just where the new analysis picks up.

“It is frequently stated in scientific and lay literature that obesity causes 300,000 deaths per year in the U.S. It has been suggested that obesity is second only to smoking as a preventable cause of death,” write researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics (search) in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

But “many methodological and conceptual difficulties arise in attempting to estimate the number of deaths in the United States that are attributable to obesity (search)," say the NCHS researchers. The basic flaw, they say, is that the alleged 300,000 deaths are generated by statistics, not science.

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