Law Professors

Law Prof Sees Profit Motive in Obesity Fight, Cites New Study on Mortality Risk

The U.S. government has classified nearly seven out of 10 American adults as overweight or obese, a statistic that is “exaggerated and unscientific,” according to a University of Colorado law professor.

As proof, law professor Paul Campos points to a new study of nearly 3 million people examining the relationship between weight and mortality risk. Government researchers found that those who are classified as overweight or lower-level obese had a lesser mortality risk (6 percent and 5 percent, respectively) than normal weight individuals.

In a New York Times op-ed, Campos acknowledged the study doesn’t reveal whether the decreased mortality risk is due to weight or other factors. But he does believe the current definition of “normal weight” makes no sense.

“How did we get into this absurd situation?” he writes. “That is a long and complex story. Over the past century, Americans have become increasingly obsessed with the supposed desirability of thinness, as thinness has become both a marker for upper-class status and a reflection of beauty ideals that bring a kind of privilege.

“In addition, baselessly categorizing at least 130 million Americans—and hundreds of millions in the rest of the world—as people in need of ‘treatment’ for their ‘condition’ serves the economic interests of, among others, the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry and large pharmaceutical companies, which have invested a great deal of money in winning the good will of those who will determine the regulatory fate of the next generation of diet drugs.”

Campos is author of The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession With Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health, as well as author of the blog Inside the Law School Scam.

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