Despite conflicting studies on obesity, most Americans think the problem remains serious

Boston, MA -- The past year has seen scientific studies that have varied in their estimates of the seriousness of obesity and overweight and their impact on premature death.[1] A new opinion poll by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that most Americans have not changed their minds about the seriousness of the obesity problem and do not believe that scientific experts are overestimating the health risks of obesity. In addition, they are no less likely than a year ago to be keeping track of calories, fat content, or the amount of carbohydrates they eat.

Three-fourths of Americans rate obesity as an "extremely"(34%) or "very"(41%) serious public health problem in the United States. In addition, the majority of Americans believe that scientific experts have been portraying accurately (58%) or even underestimating (22%) the health risks of being obese. Very few Americans reported believing that the health risks were being overestimated by scientific experts (15%).

"Even after all the criticism that too much attention is being paid to obesity, Americans still see this as a very serious problem for the country," said Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Counting calories, carbohydrates, and fats

The poll also finds approximately the same number of Americans in 2005 as in 2004 reporting that they are keeping track of the amount of calories (32% 2005, 35% 2004), fat content (47%, 46%) and the amount of carbohydrates (36%, 36%) in their daily diet. In addition, the survey finds a small increase in the number of Americans who report that they are seriously trying to lose weight from 27% in 2004 to 32% in 2005. This includes more than half (54%) of people who consider themselves to be overweight.

Obesity and Mortality

A number of issues were raised by recent studies about obesity including whether more Americans die each year from

Contact: Robin Herman
Harvard School of Public Health

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