It pays to be on time, and in the case of Connecticut representative Rosa DeLauro it pays dividends. DeLauro arrived 15 minutes late to a recent National Press Club Newsmakers panel on obesity, in which she defended her bill forcing restaurants to put nutrition information on their menus. And boy did she pay for it.
Just before DeLauro and her entourage arrived, we’d said that much of the rhetoric used to hype the cost and risks of obesity is based on shaky (if not flagrantly false) science. Among many other myths, we explained that the study blaming obesity for a $117 billion hit to the US economy admits to “double-counting of costs” which “would inflate the cost estimate.” Moments after we finished our opening statement — most of which DeLauro missed — the Congresswoman told the crowd of journalists:
[I]n my view, with these problems getting worse, not better — with diseases caused primarily by obesity having become the single largest drain on our nation’s health care system at $117 billion — it is becoming increasingly clear that Congress is abdicating a responsibility of its own.
It’s almost unfair to blame DeLauro for her mistake. She’s practically the 117 billionth anti-obesity policy maker to cite the dubious statistic. But just because she and so many others keep saying that obesity costs the economy billions doesn’t make it any more accurate. As our book An Epidemic of Obesity Myths notes, a recent article published in the journal Obesity Research indicates that there is “no statistically significant relationship between obesity and medical expenditures. ”
DeLauro’s billion-dollar faux pas wasn’t her only misstep. Shortly after we exposed as a myth the notion that this generation of children will live shorter lives than their parents, she insisted:
[A] recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine [NEJM] — hardly a bastion of the so-called “food police” — tells us our children may face a lower life expectancy than my generation because of increases in obesity and decreased physical activity.
Apparently DeLauro (or more likely, her staff) missed a recent article in Science magazine where the NEJM study’s lead author, S. Jay Olshansky, admitted “his life expectancy forecasts might be inaccurate. ” As Duane Freese, who covered the event for Tech Central Station, suggested: “Sometimes when you arrive late to a party, you don’t have a clue what’s happening.”