Fat-shaming May Lead To Bigger Health Risks, Says Study

Posted: Jan 30 2017, 1:36am CST | by , Updated: Jan 30 2017, 1:47am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Fat-shaming may Lead to Serious Health Risks, Says Study
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Poeple who are criticized about their weight are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease

These days, any sign of being obese or overweight unleashes a storm of criticism. Fat people are to be blamed for their own obesity and also face being stereotyped as lazy, incompetent and lacking willpower or self control.

New research suggests that fat-shaming can actually take a toll on health and can lead to even more serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

“There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health. We are finding it has quite the opposite effect,” said lead researcher Rebecca Pearl from University of Pennsylvania. “When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress. In this study, we identified a significant relationship between the internalization of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health.”

In a large scale clinical trial, researchers examined 159 adults battling with obesity. They were given a questionnaire to describe their perception about their own bodies. Internalized weight bias is an individuals’ belief that they deserve the discriminatory treatment they experience as a result of having overweight or obese. 

The questionnaire helped researchers to assess participants’ depression and weight bias internalization. Then, participants underwent medical examination which determined whether they had risk of heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke.

Initially, no relationship was observed between weight bias internalization and these diseases. When participants were divided into two groups based on their low and high levels of weight bias internalization, researchers found that those with high weight bias internalization had three times greater risk of diseases like diabetes and heart problem.

Previous studies have shown weight bias and stigma negatively affects mental health and can lead to stress and depression. The new study, however, investigates the negative effects of fat-shaming on an individual’s physical health.

“Disparagement of others due to their weight and messages that perpetuate blame and shame, if internalized, can cause harm to the physical and mental health of individuals with obesity,” said Pearl. “As health care practitioners, we can help challenge negative internalized stereotypes by educating patients about the complex biological and environmental factors that contribute to obesity, while providing concrete strategies to help patients manage their weight and improve their health.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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