Tim Gill, executive officer of the Australian and NZ Obesity Society, has some comments to add to the recent Crikey story on the so-called “obesity epidemic myth”.

“Tim Olds’ analysis of childhood obesity trends raises more questions than it answers and is similar to previous analyses by the same author on dietary intake and physical activity trends in Australia.

In the absence of data from regular, good quality national surveys, disparate survey data ( which have been collected using vastly different sampling frames and methodologies) has been combined to enable a crude assessment of changes over time.

Although such work is a genuine attempt to answer important questions, it is an approach that most epidemiologists would prefer to avoid. However, more worrying is Dr Olds’ conviction in the strength of his findings (given all the limitations) and the way they are promoted.

There is every likelihood that the rate of increase in childhood obesity in declining and may even be levelling off, but much of this flattening may be statistical rather than reflect any real influence of current efforts to address the problem.

But if there is any glory generated for this fabulous achievement, the Obesity Society, which has been advocating on this issue for the past 20 years, is happy to bask in it.”

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