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Monday 21st May 2018

Obesity crisis exaggerated

16th November 2007

Dominic Lawson, writing in The Independent, says the media and government are guilty of incorrectly presenting obesity as a current and future "crisis."


All families have stories of long-living relatives who had unhealthy lifestyles and health conscious ones who died young. Death's choices are not fair. These types of story go to prove that people have varied metabolisms.

As a result we do not have faith when "dogmatic advice" is pushed down our throats - particularly when it originated from politicians who do not know anything about us.

Three weeks ago, I said that figures put forward - as part of the government-backed Foresight Project - in a report called "Tackling Obesities" were "rubbish." The report attracted significant media attention by claiming that "by 2050, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children could be obese" and that "obesity-related diseases will cost an extra £45.5bn a year."

These figures were calculated by "modelling", which uses the mistaken assumption that the growth rate seen in figures will continue to grow "indefinitely" in the future.

The media is also publicising the idea that obesity has become a medical emergency.

Figures put forward in early 2004 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said obesity was the cause of 400,000 deaths per year in the US.

However, a book called Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade published a review of the data, which showed the figures were hugely inflated - the real number of deaths was 25,814.

This correction to the data was far less widely reported. The government is not the only party to exaggerate the problems they are tasked with. There is also "an almost sinister alliance" between anti-obesity crusaders and pharmaceutical organisations.

The International Obesity Taskforce, led by Professor Philip James, is given 75% of its funding from the pharmaceutical company Hoffman La Roche and Abbott.

Professor James is the author of The World Wide Obesity Epidemic and the head of the committee which, in 1997, changed the perameters for an individual being classified as overweight using the body mass index.

The media must also take responsibility - a recent review of British newspaper archives revealed some papers had one hundred times more "childhood obesity" stories in 2004 as they did a decade ago.

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