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Obesity Studies

In April 2005, researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute published a study that concluded that people who are over their ideal weight but not obese actually have a lower risk of death than people who are within normal boundaries. They also stated that being underweight actually increases the risk of premature death. I saw the report in the Seattle Post-Intelligence and tracked it back to the issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (it's available in the UoPhx online library).

Search EBSCO for Excess Deaths Associated With Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity Flegal). This study was met with both howls and hails from other researchers and the media. Here's a snippet from the article:

"Obesity is less deadly now than in years past, and carrying a few extra pounds doesn't appear to increase mortality at all, a study in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis also showed its own earlier estimates were overstated. Excess weight killed about 25,000 people in 2000, a dramatic drop from 365,000 deaths the CDC reported in January when the agency said excess weight and sedentary lifestyles may catch smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. In fact, people who are overweight have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight, federal researchers are reporting in an unexpected outcome to the newest and most comprehensive study of the effect of obesity."

The researchers were described as "highly regarded and experienced scientists". And, peers described the study methodology and data analysis as "exemplary". However other disagreed. From the P-I article: "Dr. Joann Manson, the chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital, pointed to her own study of nurses that found mortality risks in being overweight and even greater risks in being obese. Her study involved mostly white professional women and used different statistical methods. "We can't afford to be complacent about the epidemic of obesity," she said." Obesity is big business. From weight loss programs to diet aids, from Kirstie Allie to Richard Simmons, millions of dollars are at stake.

1. What do you think about this article? What might the ramifications to the weight loss industry if being overweight really is not as much of a problem as previously thought.

2. Why might researchers of conflicting studies have a problem with these results?

3. Find an article from a newspaper or magazine that is about some new scientific study. Summarize the study as reported in the news article. Assess (as well as you can) from the news article whether the study was valid and list any concerns you have about the results. Does the article raise these concerns or did the article raise a red flag in your mind? What would you do differently?

Thank you.

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PLEASE SEE FULL RESPONSE ATTACHED, WHICH IS PARTLY PRESENTED BELOW.

RESPONSE:

1.What do you think about this article? What might the ramifications to the weight loss industry be if being overweight really is not as much of a problem as previously thought?

It does not surprise me. I think that research can be misleading and if funded by large corporations (i.e., companies selling diet food, etc.) the results could be interpreted to slant towards whatever makes the most money for the corporation.

2. Why might researchers of conflicting studies have a problem with these results? Are you talking about the results of Dr. Manson's study?

It could be that her sample is not a random sample (i.e., only white professional women). Other things that can impact the results of a study are using different statistical methods, using different operational definitions for obesity, for example (10 pounds over normal weight? 20 pounds over normal weight? Body mass index? etc.)

3. Find an article from a newspaper or magazine that is about some new scientific study. Summarize the study as reported in the news article. Assess (as well as you can) from the news article whether the study were valid and list any concerns you have about the results. Does the article raise these concerns or did the article raise a red flag in your mind?

See two examples for consideration below.

In the first article, the researcher used the wrong drug (meth- amphetamine versus ecstasy) in the study and the conclusions drawn were widely published (but incorrect). The red flag is when the results were so unexpected based on previous studies that it seemed that a replicate or further investigation should have been done by the researchers.

In the second article, when I read this: Ecstasy is being hailed as the key to better treatments for the Parkinson's disease, marking a complete turnaround from a few weeks ago when ecstasy was condemned for causing the disease. New animal studies have confirmed anecdotal reports that ecstasy can dramatically curb the uncontrollable arm and leg movements that plague so many people with Parkinson's. But the finding may be of little immediate help to sufferers. The red flag experience made me wonder who was funding this research (i.e., pharmaceutical company) and who had something to gain financially from thee findings.What would you do differently? Since the results were so startling to the researchers, I would have did some further investigating prior to publishing the results. Also, it is an animal study, and the results are not seen in people using the drug, therefore the authors should not have generalized from an animal study to human beings. Rather than use animal studies, the study of the ...

Solution Summary

In reference to an article on Obesity, this solution discusses the ramifications to the weight loss industry if being overweight really is not as much of a problem as previously thought. Researchers of conflicting studies might have a problem with these results, which is also discussed. It also includes two articles, including a brief review of each article on issues such as validity and the things that the researcher could of done differently.

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