Over the last six months former President Bill Clinton has transformed himself into one of the nation’s most vocal anti-obesity crusaders. Given Clinton’s prominence and influence, it’s too bad that his calls to action are basically a rehashing of the shoddy science and blame-business-first talking points that have been dutifully employed by obesity scaremongers for years. Case in point: Clinton’s speech last Sunday at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) annual conference, during which he warned that the nation’s escalating rates of childhood obesity will trigger "a calamitous crisis in health" if left unaddressed.
The most egregiously unscientific line of the speech came when Clinton asserted that this is "the first generation [of] children (who will) live shorter lives than their parents." That claim was originated by Dr. William Klish in 2002, when he told the Houston Chronicle that "if we don’t get this epidemic [of childhood obesity] in check, for the first time in a century children will be looking forward to a shorter life expectancy than their parents." Klish has since admitted that his prediction does not come from "evidence-based research."
And the one study that appears to justify Klish’s assertion relies on the "collective judgment" of researchers, rather than empirical, scientific evidence. In fact, one of the study’s co-authors has described their estimates as "just back-of-the-envelope, plausible scenarios. We never meant for them to be portrayed as precise." (For more, check out our thorough debunking of the shorter lifespan myth at ObesityMyths.com).
Clinton also singled out trans fats as a culinary culprit of kids’ expanding waistlines, even though the much-maligned ingredient is a very minor contributor to the overall calorie count of foods.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Clinton’s proposed solutions to the "obesity crisis" include all sorts of invasive and expensive government programs. You wouldn’t expect someone who famously stopped for a hamburger midway through a jog — and who bought ice cream during a "heart walk" the day before the NSBA speech — to have much confidence in consumer choice and personal responsibility.