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CDC Research: Even Being Slightly Overweight is not Healthy

  • Deborah Block
  • Melinda Smith

For decades, obesity seemed to be primarily a problem in the United States. But now the World Health Organization estimates that more than one billion people around the world are classified as overweight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, says 65 percent of American adults weigh too much, and experience a higher rate of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. To add to the problem, the CDC has reversed its position on when weighing too much becomes a dangerous health problem.

In March 2004, the Centers for Disease Control said 400,000 deaths each year could be traced to obesity. This past January, it reduced that number to 365,000 deaths.

Then in April, the group lowered that figure dramatically; saying only 112,000 deaths were linked to obesity. Recently, the CDC reversed itself once again, concluding that even being slightly overweight is not healthy. Dr. Julie Gerberding is the head of the CDC. "We need to be absolutely, explicitly clear about one thing: obesity and overweight are critically important health threats in this country."

Dr. David Katz of Yale University's School of Public Health agrees. "In most of us overweight is not a stable condition. It is a place we pass by on our way to dangerous obesity."

There's a lot of money at stake in the weight debate for the diet, food and restaurant industries. Americans spend $40-billion a year trying to get thin. And families spend an average of $2,000 annually going out to eat in the United States.

Richard Berman, a spokesman for the U.S. food industry, says losing weight is up to each individual. "This the only disease that you can cure by taking long walks and keeping your mouth shut, so we need to start talking about diseases that are real."

But as the debate continues, everyone does agree on one thing - being fat is bad. It's just a question of how much fat is too much.

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