Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a recent study that appears to support what many people would consider simple common sense when they found that overweight doctors are unable to help their overweight patients lose weight as effectively as a normal weight physician might be able to. The Johns Hopkins study showed that the physical attributes of physicians have a larger contribution to the care of their patients than has been recognized in the past, and pointed out that physicians with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more were less effective at tackling their patient’s obesity problems than those physicians of a normal weight.
Lead researcher Sara Bleich, from Johns Hopkins University said the researchers found overweight doctors were less likely to diagnose obese patients, and they felt more embarrassed about offering weight loss advice, and often avoided discussing the topic with their clients. Bleich said “Physicians with normal BMI also have greater confidence in their ability to provide diet and exercise counseling and perceive their weight loss advice as trustworthy when compared to overweight or obese physicians.” The research also confirmed that physicians with a normal BMI were more successful at treating obesity.
The Johns Hopkins team employed a national survey of 500 primary care physicians across the U.S. to assess the impact of a physician’s BMI on obesity care and found that the largest differences showed up in the way the physicians assessed their patients. Normal weight doctors had an almost 93 percent probability of recording an obesity diagnosis in their overweight patients, while only 7 percent of overweight doctors would do the same. It was also found that when a patient's body weight met or exceeded the doctor's weight, that patient was more likely to be judged as being obese. Surprisingly, the data also showed that obese physicians prescribed weight loss medications more often and were more likely to report success in helping their patients tackle their weight problems.
For now, the results of the Johns Hopkins study has raised new questions as to whether or not the behavior of overweight physicians is intentional, or simply just subconscious, and more research is needed to understand the full effects of how a physician’s BMI relates to obesity care.