HEALTHY LIVING

Patient's Obesity Diagnosis May Depend On Doctor's Weight, Study Suggests

01/27/2012 04:16 pm ET

Whether or not you get a diagnosis of obesity may come down to more than numbers on the scale -- it may actually be about what your doctor's weight is.

A new study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that when a doctor had a normal body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) they are more likely to talk to their patients who are obese about weight loss (30 percent of normal-weight doctors, compared with 18 percent of obese or overweight doctors).

In addition, 93 percent of normal-weight doctors are likely to diagnose a patient with obesity if the patient's BMI is the same or greater as their own, while just 7 percent of overweight and obese doctors were likely to do this, researchers said.

"Our findings indicate that physicians with normal BMI more frequently reported discussing weight loss with patients than overweight or obese physicians," study researcher Sara Bleich, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins, said in a statement. "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."

On the other hand, researchers found that obese doctors were more likely to prescribe and report success with prescribing medications for obesity to their patients.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 53 percent of normal-weight doctors gave diet advice, compared with 37 percent of overweight or obese doctors. And 56 percent of normal-weight doctors gave exercise advice, versus 38 percent of overweight or obese doctors.

The study, in the journal Obesity, is based on results from a survey of 500 primary care doctors; doctors were asked to self-report their weight.

Recently, a study in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that many doctors aren't talking to overweight kids about their weight.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina, showed that less than a quarter of parents said that their child's overweight was addressed by the doctor, the Associated Press reported.

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