Overweight and Morbidity Link is Folly

Melissa Gordon | October 20 2004

Recently the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Julie Gerderding said "Obesity is catching up to tobacco as the leading cause of death in America" It sounds very scary and real, this was followed by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson recently quoted as saying "Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us." It’s a great service for these people to alert us to danger, but wait, what do the actual facts indicate?

These scary statements are based on a CDC "study" in the March 10th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that claims bad diet and laziness caused 400,000 deaths in 2000 which is a 33% increase since 1990 and is almost as much as the 430,000 supposedly caused by smoking. How were these studies conducted? They guessed based on their opinions and a small amount of information.

The New England Journal of Medicine printed an article in 1998 that said "Although some claim that every year 300,000 deaths in the United States are caused by obesity, that figure is by no means well established. Not only is it derived from weak or incomplete data, but it is also called into question by the methodological difficulties of determining which of many factors contribute to premature death." as well as that the method the CDC used to get their figures are "fraught with problems ... [and can produce] a nonsensical result." Another conflicting reality is that in the previous month the CDC says that the life expectancy of Americans reached an all time high-and life expectancy is very reliable since it relies solely on birth and death dates.

The actual studies done with care and attention to all factors have shown only minimal or no relationship between being overweight and dying earlier; obesity of course does shorten a persons life but it depends on how obese the person is as well as many other factors.

In a psychological spin, it seems that anything the majority of professionals dislike is being called 'illnesses'- over-eating, smoking, etc. And there is an obvious attempt to make people feel guilty and scared beyond what is warranted.

References & Resources:
Fox News; Friday, March 12, 2004 By Steven Milloy , the publisher of, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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