Jacob Sullum

"This could be the first generation of American children to lead shorter lives than their parents," warns Yale obesity expert Kelly Brownell, who urges a panoply of taxes and regulations aimed at averting that disaster. Yet, there's no evidence that life spans are getting shorter in the United States. In fact, as Flegal et al. note, death rates from cardiovascular disease continue to decline, while the association between obesity and cardiovascular disease seems to be getting weaker.

In response to the JAMA study, obesity researcher JoAnn Manson told The New York Times that "health extends far beyond mortality rates." In particular, extra weight can make it harder to get around, discourage exercise (lack of which helps explain the association between obesity and cardiovascular disease), and contribute to problems such as sleep apnea and arthritis.

But such day-to-day impairment is much more obvious than the lurking,lethal risk of a few extra pounds that Manson has been warning people about for years. A 1995 New York Times headline inspired by one of Manson's studies warned that "Even Moderate Weight Gains Can Be Deadly." The story quoted Manson's prediction that "it won't be long before obesity surpasses cigarette smoking as a cause of death in this country."

It looks like both of those claims were wrong. Thats good news not only for those of us who weigh more than the government says we should but for anyone who worries about the social engineers who have plans for making Americans thinner.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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