In this issue of JAMA, 2 studies1,2 present
new analyses on the subject of obesity. The study by Flegal et al1 is likely to generate interest because it provides
an estimate for deaths attributable to obesity that appears to strongly contradict
prior estimates published in JAMA. Flegal et al1 estimate that there were about 112 000 obesity-attributable
deaths in the United States in 2000, far lower than the 414 000 estimated
by Mokdad et al3,4 for the same
year and the 280 000 estimated by Allison et al.5 for
1991. The magnitude of the differences cries out for explanation of the reasons
behind these differences. Some might wonder: If well-intentioned efforts to
calculate this number can result in such widely varying estimates, is it worth
trying to do at all?
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