Nutrition Evidence Alert – January 2021

The Impacts of Weight Discrimination

Obesity is a global health concern, with increasing prevalence and now also an identified risk factor for COVID-19 symptom severity, complications and death. As obesity increases, so does weight related discrimination which can have an insidious impact on people’s emotional and physical health and is a barrier to engagement in health services. Ironically, the evidence suggests that this stigma may have a counterintuitive result by stimulating overeating and physical activity avoidance that leads to increases in weight.

As Nutritional Practitioners, we understand that obesity is the product of both controllable (e.g. diet and lifestyle) and uncontrollable factors (e.g. physiological, genetic, cultural), but a disproportionate focus is often given to controllable factors by individuals, society and healthcare services. If excess weight is considered to be controllable, it is more likely to result in discrimination and a lower willingness to support. A study by Mold & Forbes (2011) found that 37% of patients with obesity had experienced stigma by dieticians and nutritionists.

In this issue of the Nutrition Evidence Alert, the editorial team have selected 41 papers to illustrate the impact of weight-related discrimination on health outcomes. Those that have been indexed by the team are listed below.

These are our top picks of research from 2020 alerts:

Potential unintended consequences of graphic warning labels on sugary drinks: do they promote obesity stigma? in Obesity Science & Practice, 2019

Comparing Self-Report Measures of Internalized Weight Stigma: The Weight Self-Stigma Questionnaire versus the Weight Bias Internalization Scale. in PloS One, 2016

A qualitative study of GPs’ views towards obesity: are they fighting or giving up? in Public Health, 2015

The views of young children in the UK about obesity, body size, shape and weight: a systematic review. in BMC Public Health, 2011

Being ‘fat’ in today’s world: a qualitative study of the lived experiences of people with obesity in Australia. in Health Expectations, 2008

Predictors of weight stigma experienced by middle-older aged, general-practice patients with obesity in disadvantaged areas of Australia: a cross-sectional study. in BMC Public Health, 2018

How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health. in BMC medicine, 2018

Association between weight bias internalization and metabolic syndrome among treatment-seeking individuals with obesity. in Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 2017

Locus of control and obesity. in Frontiers in Endocrinology, 20/14

A sympathetic nervous system evaluation of obesity stigma. in PloS One, 2017


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