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CDC: Dangers of being overweight overstated

Add this to the long list of things we once knew but now know we don't know.

CDC: Dangers of being overweight overstated

CHICAGO -- Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated today that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths. [From 365K to 25K in just 3 months -ed]...

Based on the new calculation, excess weight would drop from the second leading cause of preventable death, after smoking, to seventh. It would fall behind car crashes and guns on the list of killers.

Calculating the health effects of obesity has been a major source of controversy at the CDC.

Last year, the CDC issued a study that said being overweight causes 400,000 deaths a year and would soon overtake tobacco as the top U.S. killer. After scientists inside and outside the agency questioned the figure, the CDC admitted making a calculation error and lowered its estimate three months ago to 365,000.

400,000 -- 365,000 -- 25,000 -- All within one year.

Why doesn't the CDC quit throwing darts at the dart board and issue a press release that says: "We're pretty sure being overweight is bad for you, but we're not real sure how bad for you." That would be the most accurate statement they've made in 12 months.

Of course, far be it from me to suggest that science might not have all the answers we thought it had just 6 months ago.

And I loved this line:

...because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the brand-new figure of 25,814 in its public awareness campaigns

Considering the number is no more valid than one I could create off the top of my head, I'm thinking that might not be a bad idea. The CDC does do some good and important work, but more and more I find I have to keep reminding myself of that.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference CDC: Dangers of being overweight overstated:

» The MUSC Tiger linked with Being Fat Won't Kill You. But Will It Break You?

» Accidental Verbosity linked with Count me completely unsurprised.

» Plains Feeder linked with Can't afford to be healthy

» JackLewis.net linked with Laughing all the way to the fridge

» basil's blog linked with Lunch: 4/20/2005

» truegrit linked with Tell Me Again, Why Should I Trust You?

» Not Exactly Rocket Science linked with Links for you, time to read a book for me

» Les Jones linked with CDC Blew it on Obesity Numbers

» WunderKraut.com linked with Save Me From the CDC

» WILLisms.com linked with The American Dream.

Comments (17)

And of course guns are only... (Below threshold)

And of course guns are only a significant factor if you are suicidal or criminal, but that detail is hard to include in headline-oriented statistics.

So is this another case of ... (Below threshold)

So is this another case of "scientists aren't always right"?

[ducks and runs away REAL FAST]

Good! I don't have to spen... (Below threshold)

Good! I don't have to spend that money on Jenny Craig this month.

Of course, I may have to call them again next month. Meanwhile, I'll keep on eating what I like.

They're only saying this be... (Below threshold)

They're only saying this because they don't know just how overweight I've actually gotten.

Mmmmmm, bacon! Tr... (Below threshold)

Mmmmmm, bacon!

Trying for 25,815.

After that picture last wee... (Below threshold)

After that picture last week, I was sure this post was from Kevin or Jay...

As a scientist who is wrong... (Below threshold)
Dave Eaton:

As a scientist who is wrong a lot and 30 pounds heavier than I wish I was, I find this news sort of refreshing. My question is, where is peer review in this kind of "research"? I'm an organic chemist, not a health field type, so I'm butt ignorant of how they do stuff.

I try to exorcise the glaring errors in my work before I try and publish stuff though, and if I'm off by a factor of 16, I would expect to get bitchslapped during peer review (which is thoroughly unpleasant even at best. Think intellectual cavity search).

McGehee:You're sup... (Below threshold)


You're supposed to warn us about liquids before making a post like that.

Fortunately, I was only eating donuts to service my 265lb frame, so my screen and keyboard are intact.

I think I'll order another dozen to celebrate this news.

Sort of reminds me how the ... (Below threshold)

Sort of reminds me how the CDC is able to control the number of people who have "AIDS" by changing the definition of "AIDS" from time to time. Why... if they added "erectile dysfunction" to the list of symptoms, they could REALLY get some nice juicy money for research.

So they're not sure, it's u... (Below threshold)

So they're not sure, it's uncertain, so they are going to use the new number of 25,814? Why not an even 25,000? Or 26,000? But no, exactly 25,814!

Why not add a decimal place, like 25,814.7, to match the 2.4 kids and 1.8 pets the average family contains?

As for guns and cars, once you start curing all the real killers (polio, various childhood diseases, etc.) then the statistical anomalies become the rule. Remember back to the good old days when several hundred thousand would actually die from influenza in a single localized outbreak, as opposed to being outraged that they had to wait in line for a vaccine?

Just another example of MON... (Below threshold)

Just another example of MONEY (in this case some CDC folks running with a new cause that they thought could generate new bucks, since they until VERY recently have had trouble getting money for the stuff they do that really is important) corrupting both science and medicine. Take a look at how money is spent on NIH/NCI as well as ACS research over the past two decades. A study report that a articular treatment extends lung cancer victims life by two months will be reported as increasing survival by 30% (previous expectancy 6 months) and heralded as a major breakthrough. Then the dollars flow in that direction for a few years until that avenue is totally milked. Sure, real progress sometimes actually gets made, but overall what really benefits is a large cadre of professional grant writers.

A visit to the new DOAg MyPyramid site yesterday showed it kept locking up. Guess they didn't prepare adequate server function for this site.

A read of the new JAMA article from the CDC suggests that ELDERLY folks aren't as bad off when they are a little plump comared to their skinny fellow octogenarians, but otherwise there are health decrements from significant obesity. So all you under 70's out there, STEP AWAY FROM THE DONUTS AND KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM (away from your mouth). Another strike against the accuracy of media reporting.

Well, the government's curr... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Well, the government's current weight and height charts are ridiculous. If you are of average or larger build, you can't hit their targets without resorting to bulimia. I'm 5' 11" and fairly stocky, and this morning I weighed 204 pounds. A better weight for me would be around 197 (I'm working on it), but according to the government charts, I should weigh 170. I haven't seen 170 since I was a teenager and ribs-sticking-out thin due to a chronic sinus problem.

Don't confuse what's going on here with science. The two things have nothing in common. Nutrition, as currently practiced, is 21st-century astrology.

Dodgeman-Excellent... (Below threshold)
Dave Eaton:


Excellent point about the number of significant figures used. I had missed that, and it implies a level of certainty (even without a decimal point!) that is impossible in a study like this. I guess I'm not surprised the media would report that number, but the scientists that put it out there should be ashamed.

This just reminds me of all... (Below threshold)

This just reminds me of all the other blunders (some of them deliberate) that CDC/EPA have committed over the past two decades. Times beach, MO., Love Canal, even second hand smoke (yes, more on that later) -- they've been on the diet thing for a long time, and even after so many years of "reflection," couldn't avoid making a simple mathematical error or discovering it in peer review (if there was any) --- too much info for comment, so I'm going to post on it later today (I hope).

Of course, far be it fr... (Below threshold)

Of course, far be it from me to suggest that science might not have all the answers we thought it had just 6 months ago.

Don't confuse "science" with "scientists", Paul.

Not that I would disagree with the statement "science doesn't have all the answers". There are a host of metaphysical and spiritual questions it can never address. But this is more a case of a group of (government) scientists abusing scientific principles in the name of pursuing an agenda than it is an example of those limitations.

I recall a couple of other ... (Below threshold)

I recall a couple of other studies

someone who is overweight but consistently overweight, as in you've been carrying an extra 30 pounds forever is likely to be healthier than someone that keeps losing and gaining that same 30 pounds, because that yo yo cycle is hard on the body, esp if you do it in crash mode (all the medical experts do tell you and this I tend to believe, esp for females, it is physically impossible to lose more than 2 pounds of fat in one week, anyone who is losing more than 2 pounds a week, is losing muscle mass which isn't good because muscle mass is what burns off the fat still in storage if you catch my drift - now in cases of extreme obesity, the doctors figure the health risks from being obese are greater than losing the weight quickly which is why those are doctor supervised things)

I recall a few other studies, one group were overweight by the BMI standards but exercised consistently vs another group who were ideal weight but never exercised and the first group was overall healthier than the second.......

so there are other factors in healthy and unhealthy, but of course obesity is a different matter than being overweight

Has anyone seen WILLisms.co... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

Has anyone seen WILLisms.com today?...It amazes me how he could find a picture like that?... I am reminded of all those little sayings like "A moment on the Lips, A lifetime on the hips."






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