Being Fat Won’t Kill You

Being fat (or at least, just overweight) won’t kill you. And it might even let you live longer.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control announced that obesity was the number #2 preventable cause of death among Americans, coming in right behind tobacco-related deaths. Coming after the release of Super Size Me, two lawsuits against McDonald’s for having made teenagers fat, and a general outcry against Big Food, many pundits saw this as proof positive that the sky was falling into our own, far-too-large personal gravity wells.

Why it seems like just yesterday that the government was rearranging the food pyramid in order to fight the ever-widening American waistline, with breathless warnings that if we don’t take action, today’s kids could actually see their life expectancy decrease.

Oh wait … that was yesterday.

I can only imagine the Department of Agriculture’s surprise when — after unveiling their 12, easy-to-use, individualized food pyramids — the CDC turned around today and said “oops”.

It turns out that the obesity epidemic isn’t quite as well, epidemic as we were led to believe. The CDC’s research has discovered an uncomfortable (for the Food Mafia at least) fact: those who are moderately overweight actually seem to gain some benefit from their extra pounds and can have a higher life expectancy than thin people. This in turn caused them to revise their estimate of the number of people who die each year from obesity.

According to this CNN article, their original doom-and-gloom estimate was that obesity killed 400,000 people a year. They revised it downward to 365,000 after people bitched about their methodology.

The new number, based on their additional findings? 25,814.

That’s right: roughly 26,000 preventable deaths per year, down from 400,000. Lets put it another way: that number is 15 time less than the original estimate. Can’t get your head around it? Consider this: the difference between the two numbers is about the same as the population of Tulsa.

Yeah, that’s a pretty big freaking error, but it’s not entirely surprising. When the CDC released these numbers, there was a fair amount of criticism and commentary from folks who doubted the numbers, what they meant, and whether the size of your waistline is the government’s business. In many cases, these people were simply dismissed as being industry sycophants desperate to defend their evil Big Food masters.

For those of us who believe the government should stay out of our refrigerators — and our Happy Meals — this revised study is good news. That said, my big concern though, is that the health storm troopers will conveniently ignore this number, just as they did the debunking of the EPA’s findings on consequences of second-hand cigarette smoke and instead trumpet the hyper-inflated statistics in a quest to pass even more sin taxes on lifestyle choices they disapprove of.