Obesity killing more people than thought
“Obesity killing more people than thought,” reports Sky News, which is among many media outlets that fail to mention that the headline is based on estimates of US obesity-related deaths.
Researchers wanted to know whether being overweight or obese was associated with increased risk of death among people in the US. They believed previous research had underestimated obesity-related deaths because of a failure to account for the different ways in which obesity can harm health.
They used data from nationally representative surveys over a 20-year period and estimated the percentage of “excess” deaths associated with being overweight or obese. Overall, they estimated that being overweight or obese accounted for about 18% of US deaths for people aged 40 to 85 years between 1986 and 2006.
These estimates don’t directly apply here because they are based on the US and not the UK. But it’s important not to be complacent. In the UK, 24% of men and 26% of women are now obese – only a little behind the US, where the figures are 27.9% of women and 29% of men.
A 2001 National Audit Office report put the figure for UK obesity-related deaths at 6%. However, in the words of a recent Public Health England report on the issue: “It … seems likely that more than 6% of all deaths will be attributable to obesity today”.