Friday 23 March 2018

Fat-shaming can increase risk of heart attacks

‘Fat-shaming’ to motivate weight loss has reverse effect. Stock photo: PA
‘Fat-shaming’ to motivate weight loss has reverse effect. Stock photo: PA

Rozina Sabur

Fat-shaming people into losing weight has the reverse effect and makes them more likely to have a heart attack, according to new research.

The idea that fat shaming - the term used to describe mocking a person for their size - inspires victims to shed the pounds is a myth, scientists have warned.

Researchers said painful messages drive people towards comfort eating and may increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Professor Rebecca Pearl, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "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. 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 internalisation of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health."

Her research branded 'body shaming' as a "pervasive form of prejudice" which is found in cyber bullying, critiques of celebrities' appearances, at work and school and in public places.

People who are battling obesity face being stereotyped as lazy, incompetent, unattractive, lacking willpower and to blame for their shape. Those who "internalise negative stereotypes" face a greater threat of heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

The study published in the medical journal 'Obesity' found this was "above and beyond" the effects of body mass index (BMI) and depression.

It examined 159 obese adults who were enrolled in a larger clinical trial testing the effects of weight loss medication.

The study began with questionnaires measuring depression and "weight bias internalisation" before any intervention was given.

Participants also underwent medical examinations, which determined whether they had a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, a number of risk factors and other obesity-related health problems. Those who had a very negative impression of their size were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome, and six times more likely to have high triglycerides, or blood fats.

Irish Independent

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