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Thursday, December 06, 2007


The reporting on the British study about increased risks associated with obesity in childbirth may be wrong. According to that link (I haven't read the study) 51% of the maternal deaths were among women who are overweight or obese. But 55% of the general population of childbearing-age women are overweight or obese. This would suggest that the risks were actually slightly lower for overweight women.

I was concerned that the stories I found only said more than 50 percent of overweight moms were at higher risk. I was wondering what the actual number was, but had trouble finding it in the stories. I didn't originally plan on going into the report for this item (though I know I should.)

Here's where I think the news media got its figure from the study (pdf):

"As can be seen from Table 1.16, 15% of women who died from Direct or Indirect causes and who had
a BMI recorded had BMIs of 35 or over, with half of these having BMIs exceeding 40. A further 12% of women had BMIs in the range 30-34 and and 24% had BMIs of 25-29. In all, 27% of these women had BMIs of 30 or more and overall 52% had BMIs of 25 or more."

So the report directly says 52 percent of women with BMIs over 25 -- which is the threshold for being overweight not obese in the UK -- died from complications related to weight.

I learned a lesson here: the UK press is even less careful with statistics than the U.S.

Wait wait. Brett, let me makes sure I'm reading this right. You are suggesting, in your last sentence in the post, that studies should be focused on whether our children are being well fed, that the things they consume aren't toxic and whether they are in a general state of health?

Brett, no one is going to do a study on that. We already know the answers - most kids don't get enough nutritious meals, are probably being poisoned by pesticides and hormones in food and don't exercise enough. Who wants to waste money on a study that tells is what we already know and could possibly make people actually change their behaviors and spending habits?


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