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Obes Sci Pract. 2018 Jan 12;4(1):46-51. doi: 10.1002/osp4.146. eCollection 2018 Feb.

Evidence of a gap in understanding obesity among physicians.

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Kaiser PermanenteDenverCOUSA.
Kaiser Permanente Care Management InstituteOaklandCAUSA.
University of FloridaGainesvilleFLUSA.



Experience suggests that some physicians view obesity as a purely lifestyle condition rather than a chronic metabolic disease. Physicians may not be aware of the role of biological factors in causing weight regain after an initial weight loss.


A questionnaire was administered at continuing medical education conferences, both primary care and obesity-specific. The questionnaire included items about biological and behavioral factors that predispose to weight regain and general items about treatment of obesity. The sample was separated into primary care physicians (PCPs) and physicians preparing for the obesity medicine (OMs) exam.


Among all respondents, behavioral factors were given higher importance ratings, relative to biological factors in causing weight regain. Respondents rated behaviour modification as more effective, relative to medications or surgery to treat obesity. OMs gave higher importance ratings to biological factors, relative to PCPs. OMs also gave higher effectiveness ratings for medications and surgery, relative to PCPs. However, even OMs gave higher effectiveness ratings for behaviour modification, relative to medications or surgery. Respondents who reported a belief in the role of behavioral factors rated lifestyle modification as more effective. Respondents who reported a belief in both behavioral and biological factors rated medications as more effective.


Physicians rate biological factors as less important, relative to behavioral factors in causing weight regain. Physicians rate medications and surgery as less effective, relative to lifestyle modification alone. Belief in the importance of behavioral factors correlated with a higher effectiveness rating for lifestyle modification. A better understanding of the biological basis for weight regain may help to increase comfort with the use of biological treatments for obesity.


Knowledge/attitudes; obesity; physicians; primary care physicians

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