Food cops, trial lawyers, and pharmaceutical interests looking to write their own prescription for fat profits have hitched their wagons to obesity hype. But new research has again debunked the linchpin of unwarranted obesity panic — the since-dismissed claim that excess weight leads to 400,000 deaths each year.

An article in this month’s issue of the journal Gerontologist validates a key finding of the recent, and widely reported, study finding deaths caused by excess weight were overstated by 15-fold. Like that study, the Gerontologist report found that older people with a high Body Mass Index have essentially no greater mortality risk. The announcement accompanying the Gerontologist study noted:

This research supports recent assertions by the Centers for Disease Control that prior estimates of obesity’s effects on mortality may have been over-estimated, since most studies of obesity do not account for its lesser effects on death rates at old age.

The Gerontologist study itself found for older individuals:

[O]bese men were 8.6 percentage points less likely to die than nonobese men … while obese women were 3.5 percentage points less likely to die than nonobese women. [emphasis added]