Physician beliefs on obesity affect patient counseling

How physicians view the causes of obesity can affect the advice they give to their patients, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the February Preventative Medicine.

Physicians who think overconsumption of food is a major contributor to obesity were more likely to encourage patients to modify nutritional habits, including reducing portion sizes and avoiding high-calorie cooking ingredients and sugary drinks, lead study author Sara Bleich said in a Johns Hopkins announcement.

"Improved primary care physician education related to the causes of obesity may be a feasible strategy for increasing the frequency of nutritional counseling--particularly concrete dietary tips that primary care physicians can easily share with their patients," she said.

Bleich and colleagues analyzed a cross-sectional Internet based-survey of 500 primary care physicians and found that 86 percent of doctors indicated that overconsumption of food is a very important cause of obesity. Sixty-two percent said restaurant or fast-food eating is a very important cause, and 60 percent reported sugar-sweetened beverages was a cause. Few physicians reported genetics, family history or metabolic defect as a main cause of obesity.

Physicians can address obesity in patients by making health trendy, setting a good example, bridging knowledge gaps and checking up on patient exercises.

Even with attention to the causes of obesity and counseling, less than half of doctors (44 percent) say they have successfully helped their obese patients lose weight, according to a separate survey from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published in January, concluded that most PCPs needed more training and collaboration with other professionals to improve results.

To learn more:
- here's the study published in Preventative Medicine
- here's the announcement from Johns Hopkins

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