According to a new study, doctors who are of normal weight are more likely to influence and give advice on weight loss to their patients. They were also more apt with respect to the diagnosis of obesity of their patients, when compared to doctors who themselves were overweight. According to researcher Sara Bleich, PhD, an assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management in Baltimore, if the doctor is overweight or obese there are fewer chances that he or she will diagnose obesity in patients or discuss about weight loss options.
In this study, a survey of 500 primary care doctors show that doctors who have normal body mass index (BMI) were 30% more likely to engage their overweight patients in weight loss discussions when compared to 18% with respect to doctors who were overweight or obese. There was more possibility of diagnosing obesity if the BMI of the patient was equal to more than the doctor.
The results of the study, published in the journal Obesity, show that doctors who were of normal weight or thin not only initiate the subject of obesity and overweight to their patients but also encouraged the patients to follow their advice. BMI less than 25 were considered to be of normal weight and those above 25 were considered to be overweight The actual reason why heavy doctors are less likely to bring up and discuss the subject of obesity is not known. It is possible that doctors who are heavy set are reluctant to discuss the topic of diet and exercise because it did not work for them. “They may not want to give suggestions about something that was not effective for them”, says Bleich. Doctors who were overweight and obese were more likely to recommend weight loss pills, according to her. Data regarding how often doctors recommended weight loss surgery is not discussed in the study.
Bleich wants to look at how much trust patients have with overweight doctors, in her next study. According to Matthew Kroh, MD, a surgeon in the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, obesity is a national epidemic and healthcare professionals are also affected by the same.
Results of the study also show that patients underestimate the association between obesity and other medical conditions as they feel that it may not be very serious as their trusted doctor also is not of normal weight. “It is also possible that doctors do not give advice on overweight and obesity as they know that it does not work for everyone,” says Ronald Clements, MD, the director of the Vanderbilt Center for Surgical Weight Loss and a professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.