Out of Control Policy Blog

Fat? Not me

According to a new study, many obese people don't consider themselves obese:

    The study included 104 white and black men and women, ages 45 to 64, who were asked to report their weight in pounds; categorize themselves as either underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese; and estimate how much they would need to weigh in order to be considered obese.

    Based on the participants' body mass index (BMI), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found there were 31 normal weight people, 40 overweight people and 33 obese people in the study group.

    About 90 percent of the normal weight people and 85 percent of the overweight and obese people accurately self-reported their own weight and height, the researchers reported Tuesday at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting in San Francisco.

    However, just 15 percent of obese people correctly considered themselves to be obese, compared with the 71 percent of normal-weight individuals and 73 percent of overweight people who classified themselves correctly.

Article here.

In related news:

    Many young children are too heavy for standard car-safety seats, and manufacturers are starting to make heftier models to accommodate them, according to [a Johns Hopkins study] on the obesity epidemic's widening impact.

And in Las Vegas ambulance companies have responded to an increase in calls to transport morbidly obese patients by buying special ambulances capable of carrying patients that weight over 500 lbs.

    [American Medical Response] recently put into service a $250,000 bariatric ambulance, which looks like its other 80 ambulances, but is extra-wide and has a larger gurney, a winch and ramps capable of loading up to 1,600 pounds.

Jacob Sullum has done a good job of pointing out that obesity-related deaths have been overstated, but I'm still inclined to think that obesity (and throw related things–inactivity, bad diet, etc.–into the mix) is a big problem. But is it as big a threat as, say, terrorism?

In this TCS Daily piece I chided the Surgeon General for mentioning obesity in the same breadth as terrorism. A reader responded, insisting that obesity is indeed a bigger threat. He noted that far more Americans die from obesity than from terrorism.

True of course, but for me the big issue is control. Except in extremely rare circumstances, you have control over whether or not you're fat. You don't have much control over whether a guy straps on a bomb, skulks over to you, and blows himself up. Moreover, terrorism has the potential to unleash large-scale death and even if obesity is an "epidemic" it's one that each "victim" has chosen to contribute to.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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