If policy makers and self-anointed “public interest” advocates expect Americans to take the current battle of the bulge seriously, we must start dealing in facts instead of hype (“An obesity epidemic,” editorial, May 27).
The oft-repeated but baseless claim that “300,000 deaths a year” are associated with obesity in the United States is a good place to start.
The respected New England Journal of Medicine has written that evidence of such a high mortality rate “is by no means well established,” and that the claim was “limited, fragmented and often ambiguous” and “derived from weak or incomplete data.”
Likewise, it’s misleading to say that Americans are so overweight that it poses a tobacco-like public health problem. Just five years ago the US government changed the way the body mass index is calculated. As a result, nearly 30 million Americans were shifted into the “overweight” category overnight without gaining an ounce. According to the new standards, Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise are “obese” and Michael Jordan and Cal Ripken Jr. are both “overweight.”
Statistics like these are being carelessly tossed around by those who want to build nutritional utopias. Blaming restaurants and food producers for our extra weight is just the first swing of their wrecking ball. Before Twinkie taxes, food bans, and more restaurant lawsuits are erected on that loose soil, we owe it to ourselves to have all the facts.