From the NY Times today:
Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, an obesity researcher at Rockefeller University, argues that contrary to popular opinion, national data do not show Americans growing uniformly fatter.His point is well taken. It's the usual danger that arises from the presentation and interpretation of data. Friedman says
Instead, he says, the statistics demonstrate clearly that while the very fat are getting fatter, thinner people have remained pretty much the same.
At the lower end of the weight distribution, nothing has changed, not even by a few pounds. As you move up the scale, a few additional pounds start to show up, but even at midrange, people today are just 6 or 7 pounds heavier than they were in 1991. Only with the massively obese, the very top of the distribution, is there a substantial increase in weight, about 25 to 30 pounds, Dr. Flegal reported.What I have trouble with, interestingly, is the Times article itself. The reporter, as one might expect, reports that not everyone agrees with Friedman's argument. What is offered, however, is not exactly engaging disagreement:
As a result, the curve of body weight has been pulled slightly to the right, with more people shifting up a few pounds to cross the line that experts use to divide normal from obese. In 1991, 23 percent of Americans fell into the obese category; now 31 percent do, a more than 30 percent increase. But the average weight of the population has increased by just 7 to 10 pounds since 1991.
Dr. Friedman gave an analogy: "Imagine the average I.Q. was 100 and that 5 percent of the population had an I.Q. of 140 or greater and were considered to be geniuses. Now let's say that education improves and the average I.Q. increases to 107 and 10 percent of the population has an I.Q. of above 140.
"You could present the data in two ways," he said. "You could say that the average I.Q. is up seven points or you could say that because of improved education the number of geniuses has doubled."
"It' s one thing to talk about statistics and another to talk about what's happening to individuals," said Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. "Everyone notices that there are more overweight people now."Really? Wow. Everyone notices? Well that just blows it out of the water.
Sheesh. What a terrible excuse for reporting.