Saturday, April 23, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- Obesity report exaggerates claims

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:43 PM |  

A reader pointed me to this column at the online site for Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Written by Vincent Carroll, it's something to think about the next time you read one of those government studies that cries out for more government regulation (the dangers of secondhand smoke comes to mind) or, as in the case of vaccine safety (which is the context this was emailed to me), claims that government studies conclusively prove "no evidence of harm."

On Point: The skinny on fat
April 21, 2005

By Vincent Carroll

Two years ago the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Congress that we faced "an epidemic of obesity" that was dispatching 300,000 Americans to the mortuary every year, "second only to tobacco-related deaths."

Last year the CDC's Julie Gerberding turned up the volume still further, claiming in a study she co-authored that 410,000 tubby Americans were waddling annually into an early grave.

So why didn't Gerberding resign Tuesday as head of the world's most prestigious public health institution when her claims were exposed as grossly, fantastically exaggerated by scientists at her own agency and the National Cancer Institute?

Why aren't there calls in Congress for her to quit?

Gerberding didn't merely overhype a crisis, after all. She helped invent one. A net annual total of 26,000 premature deaths apparently occur among people the government classifies as overweight. She overshot by 375,000.

None of this should surprise anyone who reads this newspaper. University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos examined the research and laid out the truth regarding the mortality estimates in his News columns and book The Obesity Myth. He even anticipated the finding that while it's dangerous to be quite fat (111,909 premature deaths in 2000, according to this latest, comprehensive study), it's apparently beneficial in some respects to be slightly overweight (86,094 prolonged lives in this category).

Gerberding is yet another bureaucrat who uses a public pulpit to launch scare campaigns that serve simultaneously to elevate their own importance. Missing the mark by a factor of 16 is not good enough for government work.