Recalculating obesity's toll

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 7, 2005

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recalculated its estimate of the number of people who die each year from poor diet and physical inactivity and lowered its previous estimate of 400,000 to about 365,000 deaths per year.

CDC experts admitted last November that they had made a computational error in the 400,000 figure for an article on causes of death that appeared in the March 10, 2004, Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although the numbers may have been off, the conclusions are the same, said CDC researchers in a letter to the editor in the Jan. 19 JAMA. "Tobacco use and poor diet and physical inactivity contributed to the largest number of deaths, and the number of deaths related to poor diet and physical inactivity is increasing," they wrote.

They also acknowledged the difficulty in assessing the health burden of poor diet and lack of physical activity and noted that they are trying to develop, along with the Institute of Medicine, a better method of calculating these burdens with an eye toward guiding public policy to better target interventions.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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