Health officials admitted Tuesday that statistical errors may have caused a slight exaggeration of the gravity of our nation’s obesity epidemic. Recently it has been widely publicized that obesity will eventually surpass smoking as the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, according to government studies.
In March, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that 400,000 deaths in the year 2000 could be attributed to physical inactivity and poor dietary habits. The study, which was coauthored by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, showed a 33 percent increase in diet-related deaths compared to 1990. The error in the study is a miscalculation of how many people actually died of obesity related illnesses in the last 10 years.
According to the Wall Street Journal, government health officials may have overstated the number of obesity related deaths by around 80,000. The CDC has not confirmed these numbers and refuses to state what they believe may be more accurate. If the Wall Street Journal is right, the increase in obesity related deaths may be less than 10 percent within the last decade. They also said that mathematical eras, such as including the total deaths from the wrong year, are the reason for the exaggeration.
According to Tom Skinner, spokesman for the CDC, the agency plans to submit a revised version of the study to the Journal of the American Medical Association for publication in March 2005. He also dismissed any allegations of foul play. “This is certainly not scientific misconduct; there’s no allegation anyone had any intent to falsify data,” Skinner told the Associated Press.
Despite the public slip up, the CDC still wants the public to know that the mistake doesn’t invalidate the fact that obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S, as far as they know.