Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Overweight, Overestimated

With the new pope hogging the news today, here's a story you might have missed, but which will have a lot more impact on your life.

For years, I've said that the hysteria over obesity in this country was overblown, that too many people were categorized as way overweight because the definition of "normal" wasn't realistic. I've been the guy who could always afford to lose a few more pounds, but never believed the obesity hype.

Today, my arguments were borne out when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted that the fat numbers they'd been pushing for years were, um, inflated.

As recently as January, the CDC had claimed that weight problems were responsible for 365,000 deaths per year. Now, after a more thorough analysis, they have admitted they were wrong. The correct number: 25,814 deaths per year. That's not even close -- 25,000 is about one-fourteenth of 365,000. Trying being that wrong with the math on your tax forms and see what happens.

This startling announcement also means that being overweight is not the number two killer of Americans, behind cigarettes. It belongs in seventh place, behind car crashes and guns on the death-causes list. Let's stick that in the public health hype machine!

And the good news doesn't stop there. It also seems that Americans who were classified as overweight (as opposed to obese) are eating better and -- wait for it -- actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight. So, go ahead America, have a cheeseburger and a milkshake, and live longer!