NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

THE MYTH OF AN "OBESITY TSUNAMI"

February 8, 2010

Evidence is now flooding in from both America and England that obesity is the epidemic that never was, say Patrick Basham and John Luik, co-authors, with Gio Gori, of "Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade."  Two studies produced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association -- one about obesity in children and adolescents, and the other about adult obesity -- completely undermine the claims of an obesity epidemic. 

Both studies are based on information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007-08, which is a representative sample of the American population.  The survey measured the heights and weights of 3,281 children and adolescents and 219 infants and toddlers, as well as 5,555 adult women and men.  The study of children and adolescents looked at the body mass index (BMI) of children and adolescents over five time periods between 1999 and 2008, the decade during which child obesity was widely described as America's preeminent public health problem. 

The results are striking, say Basham and Luik: 

  • During none of the five periods was there a statistically significant trend, except for boys at the highest BMI levels.
  • In other words, if there was a spike in obesity, it was confined to a very small number of very obese boys. 

What about the adult "couch potato" generation?  Here, again, the results put the lie to claims of an obesity tsunami, say Basham and Luik.  

In the study of adults, the researchers also looked at obesity trends over the past decade: 

  • For women, there were no statistically significant changes in obesity prevalence over the entire decade, while for men there were no prevalence differences during the last five years of the decade.
  • As the researchers note, obesity prevalence may have "entered another period of relative stability." 

Clearly, governments' current course of draconian regulatory treatment seeks to cure an illusory disease.  The nanny state's infatuation with an obesity epidemic that does not exist is a searing indictment of this particular public health crusade, say Basham and Luik. 

Source: Patrick Basham and John Luik, "The Myth of an 'Obesity Tsunami'," Cato Institute, January 19, 2010. 

For text:

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11146  

For study:

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/303/3/235?home  

For study:

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/303/3/242?home 

 

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