When Statisticians Laugh

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So the CDC is sent into WV to analyze an outbreak of obesity. The author of the story goes through the routine, but then asks two statisticians what they think:

Dr. Daniel McGee, a professor of statistics at Florida State University who has analyzed obesity data, burst out laughing when he heard about it. "My God, what a strange thing to do," he said.

"They'll find out what we all know - that the country is no longer set up for physical exercise," Dr. McGee said. And that schoolchildren "don't get a nutritious diet." And that "there is a lot of high-fat food on the shelves of every supermarket."

But, he said, "that doesn't tell you much."

"I'm sure skinny people go to those same restaurants," Dr. McGee said. "Skinny kids go to those same schools."

Dr. David DeMets, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Wisconsin, was also extremely skeptical.

"We get a lot of false positives from that kind of investigation," Dr. DeMets said. "We get people worried," but there is no way to know whether what is found... has anything to do with the obesity epidemic.

"Perhaps it is true, perhaps it is not," Dr. De Mets said.


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June 4, 2005 NEW YORK, N.Y. -- My biology professor at Fordham University had a theory that pizza and beer was a good, healthy diet. Something about the vitamins in the tomato sauce, the calcium in the cheese and the Read More


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This page contains a single entry by Kevin published on June 2, 2005 9:28 PM.

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