Group Challenges CDC's Obesity Claims

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Several well-established, incontrovertible, scientific studies conclude that the United States has the fattest people on Earth, with two-thirds of the population overweight or obese.

Those same studies argue that obesity itself is a disease, a position so accepted that even Medicare (search) pays for weight control plans.

But one group, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Consumer Freedom (search) argues those studies are not up to snuff.

"America is now suffering from an epidemic of obesity myths much more than an epidemic of obesity," said CCF senior analyst Dan Mindus.

Mindus authored a report that attempts to shatter "obesity myths" and takes direct aim at what Mindus says is the principal culprit for obesity hysteria in America — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (search).

Last year, the CDC publicized a study that said 400,000 deaths annually can be attributed to obesity and excess weight.

"The CDC has misled the American public, has compared obesity to the black death, has told us that obesity is going to kill more people than tobacco," Mindus said. "They're completely wrong. They know they're completely wrong and yet they're trying to sweep under the rug all the evidence to support that."

CDC officials admit they did make a mistake with the 400,000 figure and later revised the number down to 365,000 deaths, an error they themselves publicized

The CDC "did discover an unintentional computer error in the way that the computer program had been used that caused the intentional reporting of 400,000 deaths due to the combination of diet and physical activity," said Donna Stroup, acting director for the Coordinating Center for Health Promotion (search) at the CDC.

"The fact that we did subject the analysis to independent analysis and peer review shows that we are making every effort to keep our messages correct and scientifically accurate," Stroup said. "The conclusion of the paper did not change."

But other problems exist with the CDC's work, critics say. They point to the agency's reliance on the body mass index (search) chart, which computes only height and weight to determine if one is overweight. Based on the chart, even President Bush, who is a 6-foot, 194-pound fitness fanatic, is considered overweight, as are most world-class professional athletes.

The Center for Consumer Freedom also has its skeptics. The group gets most of its funding from some of the biggest names in food, including fast-food chain restaurants and food manufacturers.

One medical director who treats overweight people full-time as director of George Washington University's weight management program said quibbling about the numbers blurs the true story.

"Let's assume that it's not 65 percent, let's assume that it's 50 percent. Let's assume that it's 40 percent. It's still a lot of people," said Dr. Arthur Frank. "I think [the consumer group is] being petty and I think they're being silly."

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Greg Kelly.