NEW YORK—If your physician is overweight, chance are they will be less likely to discuss diet and exercise with you as well as diagnosing obesity.
Researchers surveyed a random sample of 498 general practitioners and internists, more than half of whom were overweight themselves, about their diagnosis and treatment of overweight patients. The study appears online in the journal Obesity.
Almost all the doctors opened a discussion about weight if the patient was obese — that is, with a body mass index of 35 or higher. But with overweight patients (B.M.I. 25 to 29.9), 27 percent of normal-weight physicians discussed diet, compared with just 16 percent of those whose own B.M.I. was higher than normal.
Doctors more frequently made a diagnosis of obesity when a patient’s weight was higher than their own, and overweight doctors were less likely to believe a patient would follow diet advice. Only 37 percent of overweight doctors strongly believed that they were competent even to offer advice about eating and exercise, compared with 53 percent of normal-weight physicians.
Sara N. Bleich, the lead author and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that finding ways to remind doctors to pay attention to their patients’ weight and diet was essential.
“If you can effectively address the weight issue,” she said, “you can address a whole host of adverse health conditions as well.”