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An Epidemic of Obesity Myths
Professional Organizations

The three most significant organizations in shaping medical and public perceptions about obesity are the American Obesity Association (AOA), the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), and the Centers for Obesity Research and Education (CORE). As these nonprofit groups hype the problem of obesity, most people remain unaware of the extremely close ties they maintain with their for-profit sponsors in the weight-loss industry.

In March 2005 the Endocrine Society announced a "consensus statement" recommending the government officially recognize childhood obesity as a disease and calling for reimbursement of weight-loss treatments. The Endocrine Society has received at least $100,000 from each of the following companies: Aventis, Eli Lilly, Knoll, Novartis, Abbot, Genentch, Pfizer, Roche, and Wyeth-Ayerst. These companies are all involved in developing and selling weight-loss products.
Shape Up America!

Shape Up America's founder, C. Everett Koop, sits on the advisory council of AOA. Former New England Journal of Medicine editor-in-chief Jerome Kassirer has noted that a "widely distributed book of recommended treatments for obesity"—published under the joint banners of AOA and Shape Up America!—was funded by American Home Products, the parent company of Wyeth-Ayerst.

Shape Up CEO Barbara Moore said Hoffman La-Roche, makers of Xenical, at one time considered contributing $1 million to the group. She testified at the FDA hearing on Xenical.

Weight Watchers agreed to donate $1 million to Shape Up America! According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), other million-dollar donors include Slim-Fast and Jenny Craig. CSPI reports that in 1995 Slim-Fast paid for a one-page insert in Sunday newspapers, which featured Shape Up America! on one side and an ad for Ultra Slim-Fast on the other.

Shape Up America! even trademarked the term "Diabesity." A 2001 conference the group hosted on "Diabesity" was sponsored by weight-loss companies Aventis, Ortho-McNeil, Ross Nutrition, Tanita, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Novartis Nutrition, and NatraTaste (which produces an artificial sweetener).