April 20, 2005 in Nation/World

Obesity danger not as great as first thought

Associated Press
 

CHICAGO – Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation’s leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths.

The new analysis found that obesity – being extremely overweight – is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.

Biostatistician Mary Grace Kovar, a consultant for the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center in Washington, said “normal” may be set too low for today’s population. Also, Americans classified as overweight are eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better than they used to, she said.

The study – an analysis of mortality rates and body-mass index, or BMI – was published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

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