What Doctors Know About Obesity

The gaps in what doctors know about obesity are startling — especially when you consider that obesity lies at the root of so many chronic diseases that doctors must manage every day. A new study published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice provides an objective view of where the knowledge gaps lie.

Terry Ann Glauser and colleagues conducted a case vignette survey with primary care physicians (PCPs), endocrinologists (ENDOs), cardiologists (CARDs), and obesity medicine physicians (OBMs).

They found a distinct difference between obesity medicine physicians and all the other specialties in their understanding of the disease. Roughly half of PCPs, ENDOs, and CARDs think that obesity results from a lack of self-control. Relatively few OBMs think so. OBMs also have a more realistic understanding of what to expect from obesity treatment. Across the board, doctors have a relatively low awareness of clinical guidelines for obesity care.

Such gaps in understanding obesity serve to explain an appalling editorial just published in the American Journal of Medicine by cardiologist Robert Doroghazi . Despite a substantial body of evidence to the contrary, Doroghaz suggests that obesity could be easily cured:

The best place to start is by simply telling the patient the truth. “Sir or Madam, it’s not OK to be obese. Obesity is bad. You are overweight because you eat too much. You also need to exercise more. Your obesity cannot be blamed on the fast food or carbonated beverage industry or on anyone or anything else. You weigh too much because you eat too much. Your health and your weight are your responsibility.”

Fortunately, ignorance is readily curable with knowledge. The bias reflected in Doroghazi’s comments might be a bit more challenging.

Until knowledge gaps are closed, the best bet for people with obesity is to seek care from a Certified Obesity Medicine Physician.

Click here to read the study and here for the editorial in AJM. For a directory of Certified Obesity Medicine Physicians, click here.

The Surgeon, Ferdinand Sauerbruch. Painting by Max Liebermann, from WikiArt

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4 Responses to “What Doctors Know About Obesity”

  1. March 23, 2015 at 6:10 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Wow – I must’ve missed the Doroghazi polemic.

    I guess there’s just a wee bit of work yet to do be done–get busy, Ted!

    • March 23, 2015 at 7:53 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Joe. The more we push, the more you bring resistance to the surface. Part of the process, Joe.

  2. March 23, 2015 at 11:55 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup! A lot of work to do. But the exciting part is now we have the knowledge to work with. Keep the faith.

    • March 23, 2015 at 3:15 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Allen!