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National Eye Institute / CC 2.0

Fat shaming can lead overweight patients to have an increased risk for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular complications and metabolic disorders, according to a recent study led by the Perelman School of Medicine.

According to Science Daily, researchers attempted to study the effects of weight bias internalization – the application of negative weight based stereotypes to oneself – by having 159 adults fill out a baseline questionnaire and partake in multiple medical examinations. They then split the participants into two groups based on their initial level of weight bias internalization. 

The study found that those in the group with a higher weight bias internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic issues and a six-fold increase in high triglycerides, according to Science Daily. 

"There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health," Psychiatry Professor Rebecca Pearl, the leader of the study, said in a Penn News press release. "We are finding it has quite the opposite effect. When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress."

Co-author Tom Wadden, a psychology professor and director of Penn's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, noted in a press release that health care providers can help with this issue by providing judgement free treatment to obese patients. 

Penn researchers have studied obesity extensively in the past, exploring anti-obesity drugs and studying a link between the condition and diabetes. 

"Disparagement of others due to their weight and messages that perpetuate blame and shame, if internalized, can cause harm to the physical and mental health of individuals with obesity," Pearl added in the press release. "As health care practitioners, we can help challenge negative, internalized stereotypes by educating patients about the complex biological and environmental factors that contribute to obesity, while providing concrete strategies to help patients manage their weight and improve their health."