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April 20, 2005

Deaths Attributable to Obesity

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Dr Mark is Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2005;293(15):1918-1919. doi:10.1001/jama.293.15.1918

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?