Filed Under: Big Fat Lies

Careening Down the Road to the Obesity Apocalypse at Zero M.P.H.

Last year, we saw a couple of projections of staggering increases in obesity over the next 20 years. We were skeptical at the time, noting that measures of obesity did not show a trend that would lead to the prophesied doom.

But maybe the stress of a national election and the looming “Mayan Apocalypse” caused a spike in obesity that would set us down the projected path of catastrophe? According to Gallup’s annual Healthways survey, that spike is about as real as the December 21 doomsday. Obesity and overweight rates barely changed, and Gallup announced that the “Obesity rate [was] stable in 2012.” The chart below tracks the survey results since 2008.

gallup_obesity_2012

This finding makes sense in light of the evidence that shows a leveling off of obesity. A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of low-income New Hampshire kids found fewer were overweight or obese, echoing a similar national finding. Several cities have seen declines in childhood obesity. And the CDC found last year that the trend of adult obesity was flat since 2007.

There’s little solid evidence that obesity is increasing. Projections may suggest it, but they aren’t borne out by data and are susceptible to “Garbage in, garbage out” modeling. Instead, they serve to generate more hype and more government regulation of food and beverage choices. Come to think of it, that sounds like garbage out, and the vast majority of Americans — left and right — agree.

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