Think twice before making fun of someone’s flabs, as overweight people who experience discrimination may be at twice the risk of chronic stress that leads to heart disease, diabetes and other disorders, scientists including one of Indian origin have warned.
Maya Vadiveloo from University of Rhode Island and Josiemer Mattei from Harvard University T H Chan School of Public Health in the US, analysed weight discrimination data from the long-term study, Midlife Development in the US.
The researchers focused on respondents who reported regularly experiencing discrimination because of their weight. The study asked whether they were treated discourteously, called names, or made to feel inferior.
Those who experienced weight discrimination over a 10-year period had twice the risk of high allostatic load, the cumulative dysfunction of bodily systems from chronic stress, researchers found. That stress can lead to heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and other disorders, increasing risk of death.
“Even if we accounted for health effects attributed to being overweight, these people still experience double the risk of allostatic load because of weight discrimination,” said Vadiveloo. The findings expose flaws in society’s approach to weight control, she said.
“The main message is to be aware that the way we treat people may have more negative effects than we realise,” she said. People who experience weight discrimination often shun social interaction and skip doctor visits, Vadiveloo said. “There is so much shaming around food and weight. We need to work together as a nation on improving public health and clinical support for individuals with obesity and targeting environmental risk factors,” she added. The study was published in the journal Annals of Behavioural Medicine