A study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2009 Scientific Sessions said that eight percent of obese people misunderstand their body size and don’t feel they need to lose weight.
The Dallas Heart Study included 5,893 people. Eight percent of the 2,056 participants who were obese said they were happy with their body size or felt they could gain weight, said Tiffany Powell, M.D., lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in an American Heart Association news release.
The researchers asked participants to chose the figure “that most looked like their present body size and the figure that represented their ideal body size” using the sex-specific Stunkard nine-figure scale. Those with a misperception of body size believed they were healthy. But 35 percent of them had high blood pressure, 15 percent had high cholesterol, 14 percent had diabetes and 27 percent were current smokers.
Powell’s study included about 50 percent blacks, 20 percent Hispanics and 30 percent whites, similar to other urban populations. Fifty-four percent were women. African Americans and Hispanics were significantly more likely than whites to be happy with their body size and believe that they didn’t need to lose weight.
Two to three percent of the participants thought that an above-normal body size was ideal. Participants who perceived an ideal body size to be larger than normal were most likely to be women, African American, and have higher body mass index, blood pressure and higher insulin resistance.
The AHA news release reports that researchers found:
- People who misperceived their body size were less likely to go to a physician.
- There was no significant difference between the two groups (those that correctly perceived their body size and those that didn’t) in socioeconomic status or access to health care due to insurance status.
- Among people who visited their doctor, obese people who did not feel they needed to lose weight were much less likely to say that their doctor told them they need to lose weight compared to those who knew they needed to lose weight.
- Obese people who were satisfied with their body size didn’t exercise, while obese individuals who recognized they had a weight problem exercised regularly, on average.
Lead Researcher, Powell noted that there is an important segment of the overweight population that is invisible and not receiving help. She also said that the findings mean that physicians need to talk with their obese patients about exercise and weight loss and that it is their responsibility to figure out “who this population is and how to talk with them.”
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Source: American Heart Association