First lady Michelle Obama has been taking a page from her husband’s rulebook recently, talking up a failed policy initiative to make it appear successful. In commemorating the 4th anniversary of the “Let’s Move” campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, she’s been touting a study that claims a 43 percent reduction in only four short years.
But the study itself is bogus.
After the first lady repeatedly cited a February study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that seemed to indicate childhood obesity rates had plummeted, scientific peers took notice of the remarkable findings and began to scrutinize the study’s methods. That led them to strongly question its results, according to Reuters:
Anti-obesity campaigners credited everything from changes to the federal nutrition program for low-income women and children to the elimination of trans-fats from fast food, more physical activity in child-care programs and declining consumption of sugary drinks.
First Lady Michelle Obama and others seized on the finding as a sign that efforts to combat the national obesity epidemic were paying off.
But as obesity specialists take a closer look at the data, some are questioning the 43 percent claim, suggesting that it may be a statistical fluke and pointing out that similar studies find no such decrease in obesity among preschoolers.
In fact, based on the researchers’ own data, the obesity rate may have even risen rather than declined.
“You need to have a healthy degree of skepticism about the validity of this finding,” said Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the weight center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Researchers said the sample size of the group under CDC observation (871 children) is simply too low to shore up such a dramatic decrease in obesity rates, and they point out that the study stands alone among a sea of other concurrent research that doesn’t reflect the same results. A much broader study encompassing 200,000 children whose mothers receive WIC nutrition assistance from the government during the same period observed “virtually no change in obesity rates,” according to The Weekly Standard.