Fat-tax evangelist Kelly Brownell and law professor Paul Campos just wrapped up a three-day-long face-off on the pages of the Los Angeles Times. The topic of debate: What, if anything, should the United States government do about obesity? As expected, Brownell unloaded a host of well-worn but terribly ill-conceived policy proposals aimed at getting Americans to cut back on the foods he doesn’t think they should eat. Worse still, he had the gall to deploy this activist-favored factoid as support for his legislative agenda:
This generation of American children is expected to be the first in the nation’s history to lead shorter lives than their parents did.
Apparently no one has told Brownell that less than two weeks ago the CDC released its new life expectancy figures, and a child born in the United States is now expected to live longer than ever before.
Thankfully, Professor Campos did a great job refuting Brownell’s hysterics with a cool-headed assessment of the facts — or the lack thereof:
“[E]xcept at statistical extremes, the correlation between weight and health risk is weak or nonexistent. The vast majority of Americans who the government defines as weighing too much have, on average, as good or better health than the scientifically baseless ‘normal weight’ category …”
“The current claims about what long-term consequences increasing average body mass has for public health are, almost word for word, the same claims American public health authorities were making in the 1950s … [A]ll those predictions turned out to be not merely wrong but represented the precise opposite of what has since happened.”
“The truth is that a very broad range of weights are perfectly consistent with good health; … that exactly what constitutes a ‘healthy diet’ for any particular individual is a very controversial subject on which there is currently nothing like scientific consensus …”