Crunching Numbers

I had an opportunity yesterday to read an “article” called 10 Flabbergasting Costs of America’s Obesity Epidemic

Well, first the good news.  They didn’t refer to obesity as being engaged in a war against it.  Doing so makes fat people sound like an enemy, which I suppose to some people they are, but there’s enough wrongness to it to fill another blog.

So as not to paraphrase anything, I’m going to repost the entire story for you to read (original link can be found here):

Obesity is costing us big time. Three times more Americans are obese now than were in 1960. Six times more Americans are now extremely obese than a half-century ago. Unfortunately, everyone is paying for this obesity epidemic. How much? Here are 10 flabbergasting numbers related to the costs of obesity.

1. $190 billion — That’s the amount of added medical costs every year that are estimated to stem from obesity-related problems. This total amounts to nearly 21% of total U.S. health care expenditures.

2. 105% — According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institution, this is the increased amount that obese Americans pay for prescription drugs compared to individuals who aren’t obese.

3. $3.4 billion — Call this the cost of the laws of physics. Cars burn around 938 million gallons of gasoline per year more than they would if Americans weighed what they did in 1960. At the current average U.S. gasoline cost of $3.64 per gallon, that adds up to $3.4 billion per year.

4. $164 billion — The Society of Actuaries estimates that U.S. employers lose this amount in productivity annually due to obesity-related issues with employees.

5. $6.4 billion — Every year this amount is estimated to be lost due to employee absenteeism related to obesity.

6. $1 billion —  Another laws of physics annual cost. U.S. airlines consume an extra 350 million gallons of fuel per year due to overweight passengers. At an average jet fuel cost of $2.87 per gallon, those dollars add up.

7. $14.3 billion — This is how much childhood obesity costs the U.S. each year, according to a published study from the Brookings Institution.

8. $62 billion — Medicare and Medicaid spend nearly this amount every year on obesity-related costs. Of course, this really means that taxpayers spend this amount.

9. $66 billionColumbia University researchers say that if current trends don’t change, obesity-related annual medical costs in the U.S. could increase this amount by 2030 — on top of current expenditures.

10. $580 billion — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts that annual economic productivity loss due to obesity could hit this staggering amount by 2030 unless the current situation changes.

Tipping the scales
Unfortunately, things are getting worse. Just look at the best state in the U.S. when it comes to obesity. Colorado’s adult obesity rate in 1995 was 13.9%. The worst state, Mississippi, had a rate of 19.4%. Fast-forward the clock to today. Colorado is still the best. However, the state’s adult obesity rate now stands at 20.7% — higher than the worst state less than two decades ago.

Is there any good news that could tip the scales in the battle against obesity? Thankfully, yes. Many states have taken action by implementing legislation that could help, including school programs that target better nutrition.

Wellness programs show the potential to reduce obesity — and they’re cost-effective. Studies have found that employers can save up to $6 per person for every $1 spent on these programs. Employees could have ample motivation to participate. Under Obamacare, employers can charge workers up to 50% more for health insurance if they refuse to participate in wellness programs.

Several new drugs could also help in addressing the obesity epidemic. VIVUS (NASDAQ: VVUS ) currently markets weight-loss pill Qsymia. Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA ) shouldn’t be too far behind. The company received Food and Drug Administration approval for its drug, Belviq, but is awaiting final scheduling by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Contrave, a weight-loss pill from Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX ) , is still in a late-stage clinical study but could hit the market next year if ultimately approved.

Let’s hope that these and other solutions make a difference. The costs if they don’t are enormous.

Okay, so I did a little math.  The Gross Domestic Product of the United States for 2011 was just under $15 trillion.  The total of the numbers listed by the author above comes to approximately $1 trillion.  According to HIS numbers, fat people are contributing just under 7 percent to the Gross Domestic Product, just for being fat.

The lesson to be learned here is that if you’re fat, the rest of the country should be thanking you, since they contribute far less than you do.

Actually, kidding aside, this article is so full of wrong that it should be considered editorial, and not news.  Let’s start with #1-$190 billion — That’s the amount of added medical costs every year that are estimated to stem from obesity-related problems.  Heart related?  Lung?  Cancer?  See, those medical categories are often lumped into obesity related medical issues, when in fact they are issues that face Americans of all sizes, many as a result of diabetes, which is also considered fat related, and couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s move on to the $3.4 billion — Call this the cost of the laws of physics. Cars burn around 938 million gallons of gasoline per year more than they would if Americans weighed what they did in 1960. At the current average U.S. gasoline cost of $3.64 per gallon, that adds up to $3.4 billion per year.   In actuality, that increased gas usage can be more attributed to car pooling and more family mobility than to cars not being able to haul a 250+ lb. ass very efficiently.  In actuality, car manufacturers give an estimate of MPG, based on “averages”, which include different weights of people, as well as varying amounts of passengers.  This is one of the biggest fallacies that anti obesity crusaders use in their arguments, and (pardon the pun), the argument doesn’t hold any weight.

How about $164 billion — The Society of Actuaries estimates that U.S. employers lose this amount in productivity annually due to obesity-related issues with employees.  Like what?  Missing time due to illness?  Or, are they trying to say that fat people simply don’t work as hard?  If that’s the case, I can cite several studies showing the opposite is true.  $6.4 billion — Every year this amount is estimated to be lost due to employee absenteeism related to obesity.   “I’m fat, and I don’t feel like working today”……….Yeah, right.  Please lead me to whoever puts these “studies” together.

Let’s not forget the $1 billion —  Another laws of physics annual cost. U.S. airlines consume an extra 350 million gallons of fuel per year due to overweight passengers. At an average jet fuel cost of $2.87 per gallon, those dollars add up.   So does the bullshit.  This is “founded” on the same principle as the argument about cars, and it’s false.  Even if it was true, however, wouldn’t you think that excess luggage contributes far more to a plane’s weight than a couple of fat people in row 19?

Finally, $580 billion — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts that annual economic productivity loss due to obesity could hit this staggering amount by 2030 unless the current situation changes.   Please explain how, and cite sources.  RWJ is a medical/pharma giant whose success is partially predicated on the misery of the obese.

And that my friends is really what this “article” is all about.  The writer seems preoccupied with the pharmaceuticals that treat obesity and the other medical “issues” associated with it.  See, he WANTS lots of fat people.  They aren’t the enemy, they are his financial friend, since there’s money to be made on fat people.  Don’t believe me, though.  Ask the diet industry, which in 2011 came in at $20 billion, another staggering number (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/100-million-dieters-20-billion-weight-loss-industry/story?id=16297197#.UV9ji8p26os).

Numbers can be misleading, but they can also expose lies, and with a little common sense, can explain the reasons behind the lies.  Knowledge is power – don’t be deceived.

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One thought on “Crunching Numbers

  1. “RWJ is a medical/pharma giant.” Oh, WOW. I never knew this. NO WONDER they have such high estimates of crap like this!!

    Also, I beg *seriously* to differ with the “costs” of obesity in fuel. Those costs are absorbed BY NO ONE BUT ME. I pay my own damned gas, thankyouverymuch.

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