Study: Discrimination Against Obese Persons Could Cause, Perpetuate Obesity

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – A new study shows that people who experience discrimination because of their weight are more likely to either become or stay obese.

The study, conducted by researchers at Florida State University, also noted that those who were not obese when first enduring negative commentary about their weight were 2.5 times more likely to become obese within the following four years.

“Weight discrimination, which is often justified because it is thought to help encourage obese individuals to lose weight, can actually have the opposite effect,” researchers were quoted as saying. “[I]t is associated with the development and maintenance of obesity.”

The study added, “Such discrimination is one social determinant of health that may contribute to inequities in employment, relationships, healthcare delivery, and body weight.”

The team of researchers, led by Angelina Sutin and Antonio Terracciano of the university, utilized data from 6,157 participants in the Health and Retirement Study. All of them had answered questions regarding discrimination, and had their weights in both 2006 and 2010 chronicled as part of the study.

MedPage Today learned that there was little variation in the results of the study between people of different genders, races, ages or educational levels. Rather, the phenomenon potentially had more to do with the individual’s relationship with food, specifically while experiencing negative emotions or situations.

“Psychological stress, particularly stress that involves heightened public awareness, engages the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal … axis and triggers cortisol release, and experimental administration of glucocorticoids has been found to increase food intake,” Sutin and Terracciano wrote, according to the website. “Further, individuals with high cortisol reactivity tend to choose calorie-dense, high-fat foods following a social stress test.”

The study was said to have been published in PLOS One.


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