Little Fibs in Obesity Statistics Warp the True Picture

Who doesn’t lie about their weight? Beyond the obvious answer, a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) shows that regional differences in weight fibs add up to distorted obesity statistics.

Conventional wisdom holds that Alabama and Mississippi are in a tight race for the highest obesity rates in America. But those perceptions are based on self-reported height and weight. The new study found that data from direct observation of height and weight yields a much lower rank for the census region that includes Mississippi and Alabama. In fact, the west north central region has the highest rate of obesity.

Why? “People from the South come closer to telling the truth [about their weight] than people from other regions, perhaps because there’s not the social stigma of being obese in the South as there is in other regions,” said George Howard, one of the investigators.

Census Regions

In addition to busting another obesity myth, the researchers at UAB are giving us an important reminder that it’s measured obesity rates that count. Policy decisions need to be based on sound data, not biased conventional wisdom. If we start comparing self-reported rates, we’re mixing apples and oranges.

Click here to read more about the UAB study in Nature World News, click here to access the study, and click here to read more about global comparisons of obesity rates from the PBS News Hour.

Seek Truth image © Tmusehere / Wikimedia

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