In his rush to spread a good message about diet and exercise, John McCarron repeated some erroneous statistics. Although the American Medical Association once claimed that obesity was implicated in the deaths of 300,000 Americans annually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since revised the official numbers down to 112,000 deaths a year. And the CDC also says that being “overweight” (not obese) actually prevents 86,000 U.S. deaths annually.
The surgeon general’s claim that the health costs associated with obesity totaled $117 billion in 2000 is not accurate either. That figure comes from a study that double- and triple-counted costs and wrongly described 10 million Americans as obese.
McCarron is right to deplore health-related hype, but public exaggerations about obesity should be confronted too.