Latest Attack On Michelle Obama's Anti-Obesity Efforts: Obese People Cheaper Because They Die Younger

You really can't make this stuff up. In a recent post on right-wing blog Verum Serum, blogger John Sexton -- who also writes for Andrew Breitbart's “Big” blogs -- keeps the right-wing media's War on Nutrition alive, arguing that because obese people usually die young, and therefore cost the health care system less, Michelle Obama is a failure for campaigning against childhood obesity.

You think I'm exaggerating? Decide for yourself. Here's the post, “Tell Michelle: Fat People Have Lower Lifetime Medical Costs,” in its entirety:

Michelle Obama has made it her mission to wipe out childhood obesity. But according to a new study, she may be hurting the success of her husband's signature achievement in office. It turns out heavy people spend less on health care over their lifetime than their svelte counterparts. But here's the catch:

Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained. Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures.

Forget the vegetables, kids. Twinkies for everyone. Let's bend that cost curve! [Verum Serum, 12/16/10]

Sexton accurately points out that a study published in the February 2008 issue of the Public Library of Science Medicine concluded that obesity prevention efforts may not necessarily lower total national health care expenditures, because it leads to people living longer. This is an interesting point and certainly seems worth discussing.

But Sexton takes a different approach. “It turns out heavy people spend less on health care over their lifetime than their svelte counterparts,” he writes. True, because as you can deduce from the paragraph of the report Sexton quotes, that's because they die younger. This is spelled out even more clearly in another paragraph of that report's summary:

Until age 56 y, annual health expenditure was highest for obese people. At older ages, smokers incurred higher costs. Because of differences in life expectancy, however, lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers. Obese individuals held an intermediate position. Alternative values of epidemiologic parameters and cost definitions did not alter these conclusions. [PLoS Medicine, February 2008, emphasis added]

So, yes, according to this study, healthy people spend more on their health over their lifetimes, because they live longer. To quote Rep. Alan Grayson, Sexton's health care plan for America, based on his post, actually does seem to be “die quickly.”

This just shows that the right-wing media will make any argument -- no matter how false or absurd -- to demonize Michelle Obama and her efforts to combat childhood obesity.