After months of pressure from the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and opinion leaders across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated today that it has finally accepted the findings of a study that found a dramatically lower number of obesity-attributable deaths in America. The agency’s move follows the release of internal documents, requested by the Center for Consumer Freedom under the Freedom of Information Act, which suggest the CDC knew its original study was wrong before it was published.

A quick recap: In March 2004 the CDC announced that poor diet and physical inactivity were responsible for 400,000 deaths annually. In January 2005 that number was revised down to 365,000 because of a mathematical error. In April a team of CDC researchers released a study attributing 112,000 deaths to obesity. When combined with the apparently protective effects of being overweight, the total number of deaths highlighted by that study was only around 26,000.

In a new “frequently asked questions” document posted on the agency’s website, the CDC writes:

Is CDC changing its estimate of obesity-related deaths?



Yes. We are no longer going to use the previous annual estimate of 365,000 deaths from poor nutrition and physical inactivity. Instead, CDC will state, “The latest study based on a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults estimates that about 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the United States.”

This statement is a step forward from the CDC’s previous non-position. When the study with the lower deaths estimate came out, The New York Times reported:

For now, said Dr. Dixie Snider, the disease control centers’ chief science officer, the agency will not take a position on what is the true number of deaths from obesity and overweight. “We’re too early in the science,” Dr. Snider said.

The CDC has also acknowledged some of the concerns CCF raised last June about the original 400,000-deaths study:

Earlier estimates only reflected the obesity-related health risks that people experienced in the 1970s. The newer data (some with mortality follow-up through 2000) appear to reflect a real decline in the risks of dying from obesity-related diseases like heart disease. Big improvements in the control of risk factors for heart disease, such as better drug management of high blood pressure and cholesterol, may have resulted in far fewer people dying today as a result of obesity.