Washington, D.C. - Big government efforts to fight obesity are being fueled by federally funded junk science studies, according to the National Center for Public Policy Research. "This week's report that 42 percent of Americans will be obese within 20 years is the latest 'study' being used to justify unscientific interventions that won't work," says Jeff Stier, who heads the National Center's Risk Analysis Division.
The topic is the basis for a four part HBO documentary airing next week, called "The Weight of the Nation."
The latest obesity report is being used by activists and government officials to push more "nanny state" proposals such as soda taxes, restrictions on food advertising, and what some are now calling a "war on cupcakes," efforts to ban bake sales in schools, a proposal that most recently became law in Massachusetts.
How did researchers come up with the 42% prediction? As Stier explains, "the study plugged in all sorts of unknowable numbers, such as how many fast-food restaurants will exist in two decades. Even Wall Street analysts can't predict such things. And presumably, to predict obesity rates, these researchers must also have predicted what those establishments will serve, what consumers will eat there, and how that will fit into their overall diets. They may as well have looked into a magic eight ball," says Stier incredulously.
"I am concerned as anyone about obesity's effects on public health," says Stier. "But governmental, taxpayer-funded studies addressing it, and approaches to fight it, must be evidence-based, cost-effective and non-authoritarian."
Stier believes that junk science approaches can actually do more harm than good. As he explains, "Just as too much candy and soda tends to 'crowd out' more nutrient-rich and less calorie-dense foods and drinks, flawed approaches can crowd out better ideas."
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters. In 2011, it received over 350,000 individual donations. Two percent of its revenue comes from corporate sources. Contributions to it are tax-deductible.