The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released its annual “F as in Fat” report on obesity today, and it now comes with predictions of what obesity rates will look like in the future. The Associated Press reports in scary red font: “39 States’ Obesity Rates to Pass 50 Pct [sic]”. So, will more than half of people in four-fifths of the states be obese in 20 years?
It’s not likely. First, the claim is utterly implausible. The report authors preposterously argue that in spite of evidence that obesity has leveled off—see the chart of the Gallup-Healthways survey below—and that added sugar consumption has fallen, obesity will increase by more than two-thirds. It’s classic “garbage in, garbage out” reasoning.
You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Take the authors’ (page 112): “Any attempt of extrapolation from a fitted model may involve assumptions which may be hard to verify and which may influence the validity of the attempted projections. Therefore, the forecasted levels of obesity should be treated with caution” [emphases added]. We aren’t expecting that disclaimer to get as much play as the scary statistics, but it’s much closer to the truth.
Second, consider the source of the claims. TFAH gets most of its funding (57 percent in 2010, the latest year for which full records are available for both groups) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a multi-billion dollar foundation with a history of bankrolling anti-consumer choice groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Twinkie tax promoter Kelly Brownell’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. So while “Food Police Central” might not be on the byline, “Food Police Savings and Trust” might very well be.