Tom Cruise is obese and Jackie Chan is overweight, according to new standards.
The claim that excess weight kills 300,000 Americans each year is bizarre in its assumption that overweight people are officially immune to all other causes of death. As insane as it sounds, if Cruise were to kick the bucket for any reason, he would count toward the mythical 300,000 total.
But wait, there's more!
Still, this flawed number finds its way into nearly every public discussion about obesity -- as does the spurious claim that obesity costs Americans more than $100 billion every year. That figure is derived from a single 1998 study published by the journal Obesity Research. This study had serious limitations. The authors acknowledged that their methods allowed for the "double-counting of costs" that "would inflate the cost estimate." They also admitted that "height and weight are not included in many of the primary data sources" that they relied upon.
Worse yet, these bean-counters used the wrong definition of obesity. Traditionally, a BMI of 30 or more makes you obese, but the authors decided to arbitrarily set their threshold at 29. A small error? Not at all. They wound up wrongly including the health costs of more than 10 million Americans.