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CDC Says It Overstated Obesity Death Figures

Jan 31, 2005

The following is the text version of a "Health News Brief" from National Public Radio's roundup, dated January 18, 2005. To read the entire roundup, go to www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4457811

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it overestimated the numbers of Americans dying of obesity related illness.

CDC officials published a letter in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association correcting what they describe as a 'computer' error. The error occured in March last year and appeared in CDC statistics.

The data indicated that the number of deaths caused by poor diet and physical inactivity increased by 100,000 over a ten year period. That increase meant that obesity was about to overtake smoking as the nation's number one cause of death.

Now, health officials have modified the number. They say obesity-related deaths increased by 65,000 over that ten year period -- or 35,000 fewer deaths.

Even so, health officials emphasize that poor diet and physical inactivity, along with smoking, remain the leading causes of death. -- Patricia Neighmond