Nov 10 2004
The weight-loss industry is finding itself in the crosshairs of the Federal Trade Commission's "Operation Big Fat Lies" -- a crackdown on slimming down pills, powders and patches that are too good to be true. The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) recommends that grossly exaggerated statistics and hype from pharmaceutical and weight-loss companies about the nation's so-called "obesity epidemic" also be placed under the federal microscope.
"An Epidemic of Obesity Myths," a recently released CCF report, highlights the pharmaceutical industry's influence in the obesity debate. The report challenges popular obesity statistics by citing a wide array of health, exercise, and nutrition experts at leading universities, as well as the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. It further exposes the pharmaceutical industry's influence on these statistics -- drug makers stand to reap great profits if its obesity hype leads Medicare and private insurance to cover their weight loss medications.
Obesity causes 400,000 deaths each year
This statistic originated from research by David Allison, who has received funding from at least 20 companies involved in weight loss products. Among many other flaws, Allison's study used data from as far back as 1948 and failed to account for any of the improvements in medical treatments over the last 50 years.
65% of American adults are overweight or obese
Xavier Pi-Sunyer, who has also received significant funding from the makers of anti-obesity drugs and is currently promoting anti-obesity drug Acomplia made by Sanofi, chaired a key National Institutes of Health obesity panel, which in 1998 instantly cast 30 million Americans into the "overweight" category by changing the government's definition. That group includes presently "overweight" stars like Will Smith, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, and even President Bush.
Obesity costs the United States $117 billion each year
Graham Colditz, co-author of a 1998 study that is the single source for this figure, has received funding from Roche Laboratories, maker of the anti- obesity drug Xenical. His study acknowledged "double-counting of costs" which "would inflate the cost estimate."
"While the federal government is scrutinizing weight-loss scams, it should take a close look at the 'Biggest Fat Lie' of all -- the so-called 'obesity epidemic,'" said Center for Consumer Freedom senior analyst Dan Mindus. "The Feds should remember that industries seeking a windfall from this 'epidemic' have spent a fortune to hype the obesity problem."
The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.