HBO Joins Gov’t Effort to Fight Fat: ‘Obesity Will Crush the United States'

By Penny Starr | May 8, 2012 | 5:17 PM EDT

(AP Photo.)

( – Cable TV network HBO is joining the federal government's expanding effort to fight expanding waistlines.

In conjunction with a new push by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HBO plans to run a four-part documentary examining the obesity epidemic on May 14 and 15.

But a free-marker think tank says the study that formed the basis of the HBO documentary is intended to push "nanny state," big-government solutions to the obesity problem.

A trailer for HBO's "Weight of the Nation" documentary includes interviews with overweight and obese people as well as experts.

“Obesity will crush the United States in oblivion,” one woman says in the trailer. “It’s not only about health, it’s about the survival and well-being of the United States,” a man says.  “If we don’t now take this as a really urgent national priority we are all going to pay a really serious price,” another man states. “The weight of the nation is out of control, but we can fix that,” someone else says.

In 2010, Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. On Monday, the CDC hosted a "Weight of the Nation" conference in Washington, where it projected that by 2030, 42 percent of American adults will be obese compared with 34 percent currently. It also projected a 5-point rise in the severely obese (80-plus pounds overweight) to 11 percent by 2030.

At the same conference, the Institute of Medicine -- a federal advisory body -- released a document offering “five critical goals for preventing obesity,” including the following:

• Requiring at least 60 minutes per day of physical education and activity in schools.

• Industry-wide guidelines on which foods and beverages can be marketed to children and how.

• Expansion of workplace wellness programs.

• Physicians “advocating” for obesity prevention with patients and in the community.

• Increasing the availability of lower-calorie, healthier children’s meals in restaurants.

“Obesity is both an individual and societal concern, and it will take action form all of us – individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole – to achieve a healthy society,” Harvey Finberg, IOM president, said.

Mrs. Obama addressed the conference by video, saying she was “thrilled” about the continuation of "our vitally important work to help all Americans lead healthier lives.”

The HBO documentary was shown at the conference.

But a free-market think tank -- the National Center for Public Policy Research -- argues that federally-funded "junk science" studies on obesity -- including the one that forms the basis of the HBO documentary -- are "being used by activists and government officials to justify unscientific interventions that won't work."

The CDC-funded study projecting that 42 percent of adults will be obese by 2030 is intended to push "nanny state" proposals such as soda taxes, restrictions on food advertising, and what some are now calling a 'war on cupcakes,' efforts to ban bake sales in schools," said the National Center's Jeff Stier.

According to Stier, researchers come up with the 42 percent obesity prediction by "plugging in all sorts of unknowable numbers, such as how many fast-food restaurants will exist in two decades. Even Wall Street analysts can't predict such things," Stier said. "And presumably, to predict obesity rates, these researches must also have predicted what those establishments will serve, what consumers will eat there, and how that will fit into their overall diets. They may as well have looked into a magic eight ball," he added.

"I am concerned as anyone about obesity's effects on public health," Stier said. "But governmental, taxpayer-funded studies addressing it, and approaches to fight it, must be evidence-based, cost-effective and non-authoritarian."