CDC Overestimates Obesity Death Rates; Smoking Remains #1 Preventable Killer [11/24-6]
Excerpts from: Study inflated obesity deaths
Chicago Tribune [11/24/04]
Federal health officials said Tuesday that they had overestimated in a high-profile study the number of Americans dying from being overweight.
Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they will submit a correction to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the paper March 10, to set the record straight.
Officials wouldn't specify the corrected number of deaths, saying they are still determining it. The Wall Street Journal reported that the agency may have overstated the figure by 80,000, representing an increase of less than 10 percent from 1990 to 2000. The errors were first reported by the Journal on Tuesday.
Regardless of the final number, Snider said, being overweight would still be the second leading cause of preventable death behind tobacco.
"Tobacco and obesity are still the two major risk factors for death in this country, and that won't change," Snider said.
Beyond the correction, the agency also had asked the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, to bring together experts from across the country next month to try to develop a better way to determine the health effects of being overweight.
Tobacco opponents have sharply criticized the 400,000 number, some saying it is grossly, possibly purposely, inflated.
"The kind of policies one would develop for something that is killing about as many people as tobacco or a quarter as many people as tobacco are very different," said Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco.
He calculates that the number of deaths due to obesity is closer to 100,000 than 400,000. And the inflated numbers of obesity deaths, he added, represent, "a very, very fundamental mistake that was made in the paper, which they have done nothing to address."
"This is not some esoteric little detail over which there is huge uncertainty," Glantz said.
In fact, the CDC's Office on Smoking and Tobacco circulated its own analysis of tobacco deaths within the agency. Using the same method that had been used for obesity, the staff came up with about 640,000 deaths from tobacco.
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