Healthcare professionals may have bias against overweight people

The results from a new web-based survey revealed that physicians, along with the rest of the general population, may be biased against overweight and obese people.

The study, which was conducted by Janice Sabin, Ph.D., M.S.W., from the University of Washington, tested the implicit and explicit biases toward fat people in 400,000 participants, 2,000 of whom were M.D.s. The results showed that both female and male doctors had an implicit anti-fat bias. The bias was especially strong in the physicians who were underweight, normal or overweight, whereas the obese M.D.s had a moderate bias.

The study authors reported that this is the first study to reveal that doctors have the same biased sentiments toward fat people as the general public.

“We found that M.D.s’ implicit and explicit attitudes about weight follow the same general pattern seen in the very large public samples that hold strong implicit and explicit anti-fat bias,” said the study’s authors.

The report, which was published in PLoS ONE, noted that the effect that bias has on the behavior of physicians toward their patients is unknown. Sabin also said that the results are not surprising, but doctors need to be aware of their own prejudice to ensure that it does not affect their treatment of patients.

Obesity definition
According to Duke Medical, obesity is measured in terms of body mass index (BMI), which measures weight in proportion to height. The measurement was developed in a collaborative effort between the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. In order for someone to be obese, they have to have a BMI that is greater than 30.

Statistics and health hazards
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that nearly 36 percent of the U.S. adult population is obese. Some problems that can be caused by obesity include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. The source also notes that in 2008, the total medical costs that were associated with obesity-related diseases reached $147 billion.

Obesity in children is a growing epidemic in America. According to the CDC, nearly 12.5 million children, or 17 percent of all people aged 2 to 19 years old, are obese, and since 1980, the obesity rate in this age group has nearly tripled.

Tips for losing weight
Two important aspects of losing weight, according to the CDC, are consistent exercise and healthy eating habits. To develop good eating habits, the source recommends keeping a food diary and noting any unhealthy eating habits like consuming food too fast, always indulging in dessert and consistently finishing the food on the plate even when you are full. A diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits and low in saturated fats is also important. A SkinnyD supplement from  Dr. Newton’s Naturals may also be helpful.

The CDC reports that exercise is important because it helps burn excess calories and, in conjunction with consuming less calories, it may result in weight loss. Not only is physical activity helpful in combating obesity, but the source also reports that it can reduce high blood pressure, decrease the risk of developing diabetes and also alleviate anxiety and depression.

The CDC recommends that people get either 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week. Some moderate exercise activities include walking at a brisk pace, yard work and biking. Some suggested vigorous workouts include jogging, swimming, cross country skiing and playing competitive sports.


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