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New research shows fat shaming by doctors can be a health hazard

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The practice of fat shaming at the doctor's office can be harmful to both the mental and physical health of a patient, according to a comprehensive new review of research published Thursday.

"Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming" is "stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers," stated the abstract to the review published Thursday by Joan Chrisler and Angela Barney, researchers at Connecticut College's Department of Psychology.

The review examined 46 past studies, which looked at doctors' biases toward obesity and also compared patients' reports of fat shaming from their doctors with their health outcomes. Researchers found that fat shaming from a doctor can take a significant negative toll on a patient's health, as it can lead to decreased trust in their health care provider.

In extreme cases, it can also cause a doctor to assume that a patient's weight is responsible for a host of health conditions and lead to a misdiagnosis, researchers said.

The findings were presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, where Chrisler called fat shaming by a doctor a form of malpractice.

“Recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight is unethical and a form of malpractice,” Chrisler said. “Research has shown that doctors repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work or physical therapy for other, average-weight patients.”

In the review, researchers called for better training for health care providers so that patients of all sizes are treated with respect.

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