Life Expectancy Increasing or Decreasing, Depending on What Day It Is

     Sixteen months ago, ABC “World News” warned of the dangers of obesity and the potential implications it could have for life expectancy.


     “We’re going to take a closer look at a landmark agreement to fight a health crisis – the growing number of overweight children in America,” Elizabeth Vargas said on the May 3, 2006, “World News Tonight.” “Nearly one in five – 12.5 million – are overweight. And some researchers now warn the life expectancy of kids today will be shorter than that of their parents, the first such decline in modern times.”


     Fast forward to Sept. 12, 2007: “New government census and health statistics out today provide a fascinating portrait of how we live and work,” said ABC “World News” anchor Charles Gibson. “For example, we're living longer, a lot longer than our parents. Fifty years ago, the average American lived 69.6 years. Ten years ago, it was 75.8. Now, the average American lives 77.9 years.”


     According to the September 12 report, experts say the life expectancy trend line has moved only one way.


     “Over a century, life expectancies increased,” said Robert Anderson of the National Center for Health Statistics. “And I don't really have any reason to expect it won't continue to do so.”


     In fact, the trend has been for Americans to live smarter and healthier over the last century.


     “But much more important is that progress against some of the nation's biggest killers,” ABC correspondent Lisa Stark said. “Physicians say a decrease in smoking and wider use of drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure have helped reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke. And as smoking has dropped, so has lung cancer. Also down – deaths from breast and colon cancer.”


     People are acting on their own without nanny state-style intervention.


     “People are listening,” said Dr. Bruce Johnson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “They're getting themselves screened.”


     But back in May 2006, ABC News had less faith in future generations’ ability to take care of themselves. ABC News warned life expectancy was in danger of declining and more specifically said children needed to curb consumption of “high-calorie sodas and beverages.”


     “We want to not have to worry that our kids are going to use their lunch money to buy ‘Flaming’ Cheetos and a Coke instead of a balanced school meal,” said Margo Wootan of the left-wing Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to ABC News on May 3, 2006.


     CSPI has played the role of food police in the past and has often made dire forecasts to push its agenda. In June, the organization successfully forced cereal manufactures to stop using cartoon characters to market products. CSPI has also pushed for municipalities to ban trans fat from use in restaurants.


     “[I]t appears that CSPI has spent decades irresponsibly frightening the public about alleged hazards of virtually every section of the food pyramid including: meats and dairy products; fish and seafood; fruits and vegetables; bread and pasta; and fats, oils and sweets,” Steven J. Milloy, executive director of the Free Enterprise Education Institute, wrote in an August 2006 study.