By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University physicians with normal body mass index or weight-to-height ratios are more likely to discuss weight loss with patients than overweight doctors.
They add that these normal weight physicians were about nine times more likely to diagnose a patient as obese if they thought the patient's BMI was equal to or higher than their own. They surveyed about 500 primary care doctors during the study. In addition they note that physicians of normal weight had more confidence in giving diet and exercise counseling and were more likely to feel patients would trust their advice.
The study was published this month in the journal Obesity. Results showed normal-BMI doctors were more likely to talk to their obese patients about weight loss (30% versus 18%). They were also more likely to give advice on diet (53% versus 37%) and exercise (56% versus 38%). Surprisingly a normal-weight doctor actually recording an obesity diagnosis for an obese patient was 93%. For overweight or obese doctors, it was just 7%.
Interestingly, the gap seemed to narrow a bit when physicians were asked whether they thought patients would be less likely to trust weight loss advice from an overweight or obese doctors. An overwhelming 80% of normal-BMI doctors agreed, but so did a very respectable 69% of overweight and obese doctors.
The likelihood that a physician would diagnose a patient as obese or talk to them about weight loss was higher, the researchers wrote, “when the physicians' perception of the patients' body weight met or exceeded their own personal body weight.”