Filed Under: Big Fat Lies

A Victory In The Obesity Battle

Even as the war over our waistlines wages on, the media is now recognizing a Center for Consumer Freedom victory over obesity hype. We’ve led the charge against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) bogus 400,000 deaths estimate from excess weight — which now looks to be one-fifteenth as large. Even our critics grudgingly admit that we were right all along about the CDC cooking the books.

The Associated Press points out today — after highlighting our recent ads which have helped sparked this much-needed debate about the government’s obesity statistics — that the CDC is still not backing away from its position:

Some experts say the new, much lower estimate of nearly 26,000, published April 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is likely the most accurate. But [CDC director] Gerberding says the CDC won’t use it in its public health campaigns.

An editorial in the Nashville City Paper criticizes this position, saying:

The CDC says it will continue to use the 365,000 number in campaigns to fight obesity, but who is going to actually believe that now? … 25,814 deaths from obesity doesn’t make being fat the epidemic the CDC was trying to portray.

The Washington Times was equally critical of the CDC’s shoddy science, editorializing this morning: “The CDC as a scientific organization cannot continue in this fashion. In its quest for political power, the agency threatens to seriously damage its credibility.

A Vancouver Sun columnist adds:

The U.S. Center for Consumer Freedom even spearheaded something of a crusade against the study, and it repeatedly emphasized that the authors used outdated, non-representative data (despite having access to more recent, representative data) and failed to control for confounding variables such as lifestyle, age and education … [T]he CDC clearly has some soul-searching and housecleaning to do.

The New York Times editorialized of the newer, more scientifically sound study, that:

It leaves the C.D.C., in particular, with a lot of explaining to do … The C.D.C. needs to say, loud and clear, whether it believes the estimates. The whole notion of what constitutes normal weight and overweight may have to be rethought.

Even our critics at The Washington Post agree that we were correct in demanding better from the CDC. A Post editorial this morning acknowledges of the CDC’s 400,000-death figure:

[T]he original report, which was criticized even before its publication, also contained serious methodological and calculation errors, which CDC was slow to acknowledge and now tries to play down … CDC administrators would do better to leave science to the full-time scientists and to focus on repeating this simple message to the public.

Another Post story pointed out that we were right all along:

In March 2004, the CDC published a report linking obesity to 400,000 deaths a year in the United States. Three months later, the Center for Consumer Freedom began challenging that statistic, issuing its first of many statements saying the deaths were vastly overstated. Last week, the CDC announced new estimates, linking 112,000 deaths to obesity.

Of course, we’ve never claimed being obese is good medical advice. Balance and moderation in your diet is always a good idea. But we have said, time and again, that draconian food policies shouldn’t be based on flawed science. The CDC’s wildly mistaken obesity-mortality figure, which was announced with great fanfare, has fueled hysteria from the school snack bar to the courtroom. Now the media is starting to come around to this position. See here, here, here, here, here, and here for a few more examples.

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