Medicine: Gauging the Fat of the Land

A panel issues a warning for 34 million overweight Americans

"Obesity is a killer. It is a killer just as smoking is," says Dr. Jules Hirsch, chairman of a 14-member panel of doctors and nutritionists assembled last week by the National Institutes of Health. Hirsch warns that the public tends to regard obesity as "something more involved with appearance than with health." But his panel, after reviewing mountains of research, concluded that being overweight presents "a very pervasive health hazard in many systems of the body."

According to the panel, the hazards become significant at 20% or more above the "desirable weight," as determined by averaging the values shown on the...

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