Was the “obesity epidemic” fabricated?

August 13, 2015

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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

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First of all, let's define obesity.  Several definitions exist, and here's the most succinct one I've found:

"Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems."

Interestingly, go to the CDC website and here's their definition:

"Weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese." 

So our government alleges to know, based on your height, how much they would "expect" you to weigh, regardless of your age, sex, genetics, muscle mass, lifestyle, health conditions, or any other factors that influence weight.  Are you kidding me? 

Let's go back to the first definition I posted.  Note that it specifies "to the extent that health it may have a negative effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy."  At least this definition *sort of* acknowledges that not all people of higher weights necessarily suffer from poor health.   I'd also like to point out that "overweight" people live longer than those of "normal" weights.  So why are we automatically assuming that being "overweight" is unhealthy?

The notion of an "obesity epidemic" began when the CDC falsely reported that >400,000 Americans die of being overweight/obese every year.  What they didn't tell you is that this data was a result from poor statistical methodology, and when they corrected it the estimate fell to 26,000 deaths per year.  That's a 15-fold decrease in their original report – but did they bother to publicize this headline?  Nope.

The CDC also doesn't tell you that the death rate is higher for those that are "underweight" (according to BMI) than for those who are categorized as "overweight/obese."  Death rates don't increase at higher weights until BMI >40. 

It's also important to consider the money and politics involved in all of this.  The vast majority of government research funding goes toward obesity research.  The researchers are under pressure to produce results that are consistent with the story that obesity kills.  The weight loss industry makes over $50 billion per year selling products to people desperate to lose weight.  Pharmaceutical companies and physicians make a lot of money treating obesity.

The "obesity epidemic" is not an epidemic at all.  Rates of weight gain in the US have plateaued, so there is no epidemic happening.  Obesity itself also isn't a valid medical condition, at least not the way we're defining it purely based on weight.  Being in the category that our government calls "overweight" actually might be beneficial to your health.  But they're not going to tell you that, are they?

In "An Epidemic of Obesity Myths" the Center for Consumer Freedom writes:

“Of all our convictions about health, the belief that obesity itself is a killer has no rival when it comes to the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific evidence,” writes Dr. Glenn Gaesser, University of Virginia Physiology Professor, “The heath risks of moderate obesity have been greatly overstated.” Dr. Paul Ernsberger, Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University agrees:

Expert panels from the NIH have claimed that obesity is second only to cigarettes as a preventable cause of death, and kills 400,000 people a year. If so, then major increases in the incidence of adult obesity should have a negative impact on life expectancy. The opposite is true, as death rates have fallen.


For more on this topic read the full article.  I also recommend the book "Health at Every Size" by Linda Bacon, PhD – chapter 6 addresses this very topic.

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