Critics Challenge Belief of Obesity Epidemic, Los Angeles Times Reports
The Los Angeles Times on Friday considered some scholars' and researchers' skepticism about "the science behind ever-more-shrill pronouncements" on the dangers of obesity. Such critics challenge the validity of the "federally declared obesity epidemic" and cite studies -- such as one in Norway involving 1.8 million people and another study of 115,195 nurses in Massachusetts -- that have found people who are overweight actually had a lower risk of death than those who were thin, according to the Times. Critics also cite other studies, including an Israeli study of 9,228 middle-aged and elderly men -- that found people who intentionally lost weight died sooner than those who stayed overweight. However, "[m]ainstream obesity researchers object strenuously" to their analyses, saying that critics are "quibbling, misreading the data or cherry-picking medical facts" because "hundreds of studies show beyond reasonable doubt that there is a link between obesity and unhealthy conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, as well as a higher overall risk of death," the Times reports.
Skeptics claim data on obesity have been exaggerated, and they say the "most egregious recent example" of this distortion was CDC's announcement in March that obesity kills 400,000 U.S. residents annually, according to the Times. The estimate was made based on the death risk of obesity in young people, which is "known to be high," while the death risk for the elderly is "tiny"; the death estimate is "highly inflated," according to critics, the Times reports. Dr. James Marks, one of the authors of the CDC study, stands by the study, saying the methodology was sound and had been used in other research. Paul Campos, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder and author of "The Obesity Myth," said, "Junk science. That's the real epidemic." University of Southern California sociology professor Barry Glassner added that that obesity is today's "moral panic" (Mestel, Los Angeles Times, 7/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.