Before I bias you with my opinion, go take this survey on Nutritional Labeling and Related Issues (by Michael McCann). It’s short and for a good cause. (via Volokh)
Ok, proceeding. There are many good reasons for staying at a healthy weight (and I fully admit that I need to lose some weight) but exaggerating the dangers of obesity and making public policy based on incorrect data isn’t helping anyone. Unfortunately we now discover that that’s what the CDC has been doing for years. The earlier numbers on obesity and early death that we’ve heard as fact on the news for years were apparently estimates based on flawed and incomplete data (a nice way of saying they made it up).
Newly revised numbers take obseity from the 2nd leading cause of premature death down to around the 7th, and the new numbers are probably still too high. Nor is there any real evidence that being overweight leads to early death, or that the number of people dying from heart disease is increasing.
But these trends are less surprising when you consider who’s compiling the data. When
all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when you’re
the Center for Disease Control, every problem looks like a disease. Even
if it isn’t.
Yes, people need to exersize more and eat better. (If only so we can stop seeing those endless clips of Headless Fat People in Shorts walking around on the news every night.) But I’ve always thought it was silly to talk about an "obesity epidemic". Obesity isn’t contagious and it’s not a disease. Certain diseases and disorders can cause obesity, but they can also cause poor eyesight, bad breath, and thinning hair, none of which are declared to be "epidemics". Apparently the real epidemics here are junk science and reporters who can’t be bothered to check their facts.