WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study by researchers at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) published in JAMA concludes that obesity kills 112,000
Americans each year -- a dramatic decrease from an admittedly flawed study
published last year by the CDC. That study suggested obesity killed 400,000
Americans a year. In a letter sent today to CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding,
Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) Executive Director Richard Berman draws
attention to the vast disparity between the two figures. The letter calls on
the CDC to publicly explain the errors behind its 400,000 deaths statistic,
give an accounting of its embattled report, and endorse the conclusions of
today's vastly improved study.
"Today's scientifically superior study further demonstrates that the
Center for Consumer Freedom's long-standing criticism of the CDC's obesity
scaremongering was well-founded," Rick Berman stated in his letter to
Gerberding. "Since June, when we published 'An Epidemic of Obesity Myths,' the
Center for Consumer Freedom has repeatedly called on the CDC to retract its
false claim that obesity kills 400,000 Americans each year and that it would
soon become the nation's number one cause of preventable death. This false
statistic from the CDC has become the rallying cry for trial lawyers pursuing
obesity lawsuits against restaurants and for the self-appointed food police
seeking regulations and taxes."
Today's study in JAMA indicates that being overweight, as opposed to
obese, actually saves 86,000 lives. When the authors add their obesity and
overweight deaths, they write: "Thus, for overweight and obesity combined, our
estimate was 25,814 excess deaths." Perhaps more importantly, the study
employs more recent data that shows a much lower risk of obesity. This data
was collected by the CDC itself, and could have been used in its 400,000
"Today's study uses the CDC's own, more recent data, which shows a much
lower risk of obesity. It's a scandal that the CDC's 400,000 deaths estimate
didn't use this information, which was readily available on the agency's
computers," Berman wrote to Gerberding. "The American public deserves to know
where the CDC stands on this greatly reduced number and whether obesity is
truly worse than the Black Death, as you have stated."
Though the CDC has admitted mathematical errors in its 400,000 study, its
own internal investigation, while more revealing, has been alarmingly
downplayed. A timeline of events reveals the unfolding politics of obesity-
* March 2004 The CDC releases its report during a highly publicized news
conference saying obesity kills 400,000 Americans a year and is poised
to become America's number one preventable death, resulting in alarming
front page headlines across the nation.
* May 2004 Science magazine reports on the 400,000 deaths figure: "Some
researchers, including a few at the CDC, dismiss this prediction, saying
the underlying data are weak. They argue that the paper's compatibility
with a new anti-obesity theme in government public health
pronouncements -- rather than sound analysis -- propelled it into
* November 2004 The Wall Street Journal publishes a front-page story on
errors in the 400,000-deaths study. The paper notes the study "inflated
the impact of obesity on the annual death toll by tens of thousands due
to statistical errors ... Dr. Pechacek wrote to colleagues that he had
warned two of the paper's authors, as well as another senior scientist,
'I would never clear this paper if I had been given the opportunity to
provide a formal review.'"
* December 2004 A follow-up story in the Wall Street Journal reports that
due to additional problems based on the "authors' scientific approach":
"The number of obesity-related deaths could be less than half of the
400,000 estimated in the flawed CDC study, according to some scientists
familiar with the debate."
* January 2005 The CDC admits that its 400,000 deaths figure was
exaggerated due to mathematical errors.
* February 2005 The CDC buries on its website a summary of its internal
investigation into the 400,000 number. The summary reads in part: "The
scientists expressed concerns and did meet with some of the authors but
they were not convinced that their perspectives were listened to or that
requests for data were acknowledged ..."
* February 2005 Los Angeles Times report on the CDC's internal
investigation of the flawed report: "A controversial government study
that may have sharply overstated America's death toll from obesity was
inappropriately released as a result of miscommunication, bureaucratic
snafus and acquiescence from dissenting scientists."
* April 2005 JAMA publishes a significantly revised estimate concluding
that obesity kills 112,000 Americans each year -- a far cry from the
400,000 figure claimed earlier by the CDC.
To read Berman's letter and the report "An Epidemic of Obesity Myths,"
visit http://www.ObesityScam.com. The Center for Consumer Freedom is a
nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers,
working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer
SOURCE Center for Consumer Freedom