Friday, April 22, 2005

A new CDC study, or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the fat

Last year, a CDC study concluded that obeseity and its moderate cousin overweightness were responsible for 400,000 additional deaths annually. That was then; this is now:
Now the new study says that obesity and extreme obesity are causing about 112,000 extra deaths but that overweight is preventing about 86,000, leaving a net toll of some 26,000 deaths in all three categories combined, compared with the 34,000 extra deaths found in those who are underweight.
So, (quite unseriously) slicing the numbers as above, undereating is more deadly than overeating. Actually, what I take away from the study is confirmation (doubtless infected by a little confirmation bias) of my don't-worry-so-much philosophy about food. Contrary to the title of this post, I've always loved the fat. (And the Dr. Pepper....) I generally eat when I'm hungry (and not too distracted by a math problem) and eat what I'm hungry for. As for future health benefits I might be foregoing, 1) compared to the present, I value the future at a discount; 2) the level of future health benefits of a given diet is quite uncertain for an individual, even if it might be quite predictable in the aggregate; 3) medical technology is ever advancing, making it ever more feasible to substitute future medicines for present healthy diets. My relatively care-free diet isn't for everyone, but the opposite extreme projected by our mass media (including a fair amount of government propoganda), a neurosis about health and thinness, is surely undesirable for most.

Update: See also Steven Levitt's comments. (Hat tip: MR.)


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