Chubby Doctors Could Be Bad for Your Health01/30/12
MONDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A doctor who packs a few
extra pounds may be unlikely to advise you to shed your own excess
weight, a new study suggests.
Overweight physicians who responded to a survey disclosed that
they're less likely than other doctors to talk to their obese
patients about weight control.
When it comes to talking to patients about losing pounds, "in
general, doctors are not doing a good job. But you can't look at
overweight doctors and say, 'You're the problem," said study author
Sara Bleich, an assistant professor of health policy at Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Why? Because doctors of normal weight don't tend to bring up
weight loss with their heaviest patients either.
The researchers did find that doctors of normal weight were more
confident than their overweight counterparts about their ability to
counsel obese patients about diet and exercise.
Bleich said she came up with the idea for the study after going
to a dentist who had bad teeth. "I thought, 'How are you going to
take good care of my teeth if you can't take good care of your
She decided to see a different dentist and began thinking about
overweight doctors and their heftier patients. After all, she
noted, doctors who smoke are less likely to provide information
So last year, Bleich and her colleagues sent a survey to 500
primary care physicians, who received $25 each for taking part.
About two-thirds were male, 70 percent were white and almost
three-quarters were at least 40 years old.
About half were overweight or obese, a category that encompasses
people who are a step beyond simply carrying a few extra pounds.
Two doctors were underweight, and the researchers didn't include
them in their analysis.
The study appears in the January issue of the journal
Only about one-third of doctors of normal weight said they
talked to obese patients about weight loss, compared to 18 percent
of those doctors who were overweight. Just over half of the
normal-weight doctors had confidence in their ability to talk to
their patients about diet and exercise, compared to about 38
percent of the overweight doctors.
Also, 80 percent of normal-weight doctors thought overweight
patients would be less likely to trust guidance about weight
control from overweight doctors; the number was 69 percent among
overweight doctors, the survey found.
Normal-weight doctors were also more likely than their
overweight peers to believe that physicians should "model" healthy
behaviors, such as keeping a healthy weight and exercising
"For physicians, weight matters when it comes to obesity care," Bleich said.
The findings appear to be sound, said Dr. Robert Post, who has
studied obesity in doctors and serves as research director of
Virtua Family Medicine Residency, which trains physicians in New
Jersey. "I find it troubling that any physician would bring their
own issues into any encounter with a patient and avoid talking
about weight," he said. "But a previous study I authored showed
most doctors do not address weight with their overweight
What to do? Bleich said electronic record-keeping may help
doctors do a better job of treating overweight patients because the
body mass index (BMI) of patients can be automatically calculated.
The BMI is a commonly used measure of whether a person's weight
isn't normal for his or her height.
For more about
obesity, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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