The View from ECO2017

Contrasting Views of Obesity in Europe at ECO2017

Much Belief that Obesity Results from Addictive Junk Food (Europe)At the 2017 European Congress on Obesity yesterday, ConscienHealth’s Ted Kyle presented data on contrasting views of obesity in Europe. These views provide a window into bias about obesity and people who have it. From a sample of 34,320 adults in Sweden, UK, Germany, and Italy, a fascinating picture emerges. Belief that obesity results from addiction to junk food stand out in all four countries – but it’s strongest in Italy.

“Hooked on Addictive Junk Food and Sugary Drinks”

Fully 70% of adults in Italy agree that obesity results because “people get hooked on addictive junk food and sugary drinks.” Half of them say they strongly believe it. In Sweden, 72% agree with that idea, but significantly fewer people believe it strongly.

We should note that scientific consensus does not fully line up with this public belief.

While some scientists will argue persuasively that food addiction is an important pathway to obesity, others are quick to say that addiction is at best an incomplete explanation for the complex pathology of obesity. Many factors contribute to obesity. People without obesity may have symptoms of food addiction. And many people with obesity have no symptoms of food addiction.

Patterns of Beliefs that Contribute to Weight Bias

Within these data lie other patterns of beliefs that contribute to weight bias. We found an especially strong belief in Italy that people with obesity are lazier than most people. We found that people in the UK believe more strongly that people with obesity are at fault for their condition. In both Sweden and UK, beliefs that obesity results from “disgusting” irresponsibility was more common.

The point of measuring these beliefs is to look for ways to reduce the impact of weight bias. We are grateful for that ongoing support. Both the Obesity Action Coalition and Novo Nordisk are making it possible to track these views over time.

We are especially grateful to Angelo Pietrobelli, Joseph Nadglowski, Daniele Di Pauli, Anja Hilbert, Ximena Ramos Salas, Diana Thomas, and Rebecca M. Puhl. Their professional expertise and insight make this work possible.

For a copy of the poster we will be presenting on this data today, click here. For insights from North and South America presented at the Canadian Obesity Summit, click here.

The View from ECO2017, photograph © Ted Kyle

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May 18, 2017

One Response to “Contrasting Views of Obesity in Europe at ECO2017”

  1. May 18, 2017 at 1:37 pm, Angie Golden said:

    This is great information and important for us to be aware of, but I find it very sad that we have made so few strides in the bias towards people with this disease.

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