Report: CDC study overstated obesity deaths

Sunday, November 28, 2004

November 29, 2004

NEW YORK - A prominent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have overstated the number of obesity-related deaths in 2000 by as much as 20%, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

An analysis of the study, which was released in March and predicted that obesity would surpass tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death, found that mathematical errors may have inflated the 2000 death toll attributed to obesity by 80,000, concluded the Journal after it reviewed report documents.

The CDC's chief of science, Dixie Snider, who is also leading the internal inquiry of the study, confirmed to the paper that the CDC will reduce its estimate of the number of deaths attributable to poor diet and lack of exercise, but he declined to say by how much, the paper said.

The study originally concluded that in 2000 there were nearly as many obesity-related deaths, at 400,000, as there were deaths related to tobacco use, at 435,000.

The CDC launched an internal review of the study after researchers criticized its methodology in letters published in the journal Science.

Snider told the paper the CDC would submit a correction to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the original study.