CDC Scientist's methodological mistakes lead to erroneous conclusion
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/08/2013 -- According to a panel of professors at the Harvard School of Public Health, the recent study that concluded that overweight people lived longer was simply wrong.
“When I read the article I was somewhat taken aback. I wondered if I should send a ‘never mind’ note to all the people I’d taught about the risks of excess fat,” said Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and an authority on the biology of obesity and diabetes.”
Flier was not alone, as many simply could not understand the findings that were gathered by the Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist Katarine Flegal. The scientists supposed findings were that once all variables other than weight were removed, there was no actual health-related harm in being overweight.
In order to clear up confusion, Flier worked with Julio Frenk, who is dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, convened a panel at HSPH with experts on the patter. Flegal, a senior scientist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics was invited, but failed to appear.
We live in an era of near-ubiquitous access to information,” Frenk said, “but the University has an important role to play in providing context and analysis to help people judge the value of information they are consuming, especially when there are equivocal or controversial findings.”
Each panelist evaluated Flegal's findings and each noted a number of methodological errors within her study. The experts noted that such mistakes were of the nature that they were create artificial appearances of the protective benefit of being overweight or obese.
“When something sounds too good to be true, it’s usually not true,” said Frank Hu, HSPH professor of nutrition and epidemiology and HMS professor of medicine.
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