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Many in denial over obesity health risks

19th October 2011

Some people whose weight presents a serious health problem are not aware of that fact, or simply don't believe it, according to a recent US study.

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The researchers polled 450 randomly selected people, all of whom were brought to the same hospital, and all of whom were either overweight or obese.

Only 19% of those who believed there might be something unhealthy about their weight had ever discussed the issue of weight with their doctor.

And 70% of those whose doctors had told them their weight was a problem did not agree.

Matthew Ryan, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the author of the study, said that men were particularly out of touch with the health implications of their weight.

More than half of the men who were overweight or obese reported that they did not think their weight was a problem.

By comparison, 62% of women who were overweight or obese reported believing that it posed a health risk.

Ryan said that 30% of people who were classified as obese, having a BMI over 30, did not believe their weight constituted a health issue.

He said that, in every emergency department, doctors could see how obesity was linked to other diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gallblader disease, heart disease, stroke, and metabolic syndrome.

Keri Gans, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, said she felt it was disconcerting that doctors did not speak frankly to their patients about weight issues.

She said if doctors did not tell people about the increased risk of disease that came with weight gain, they might think there was nothing to worry about.

Other studies have shown that many people from the US may be in denial about their weight.

Late last summer, researchers in the US found that 30% of people who were overweight did not think of themselves as being overweight.

The same study found that 70% of people who were obese did not think of themselves as being obese.

And 39% of people from the US who were morbidly obese thought of themselves as being overweight.

Gans said that, in her experience, it was uncommon for a patient to take an active approach to weight loss unless they were already afraid of the consequences.


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