A new study finds that Americans think obesity is a serious health problem -- but are still misinformed about the associated risks

By Lindsay Kimble
November 02, 2016 05:42 PM
Credit: Getty

Most Americans think lack of willpower is to blame for obesity, according to a new survey conducted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and NORC at the University of Chicago.

“A lack of individual willpower is cited as the biggest barrier to weight loss, and a majority of people with obesity attempt to lose weight without the help of medical professionals,” reads the survey.

Researchers say that in reality, genetics are a primary indicator of obesity as well as interactions with the environment.

The survey also found that 94 percent of survey participants who were obese had tried to lose weight with diet and exercise, but saw no results.

“It’s frustrating to see doctors and the general public stigmatize patients with obesity and blame these patients, ascribing attributes of laziness or lack of willpower,” Dr. Donna Ryan, an obesity researcher, told The New York Times.

The majority of those surveyed believed obesity to be as serious as cancer, but felt that fat people should be able to deal with the issue by themselves.

“If you think a disease is a potential killer, as serious as cancer, why would you take on its treatment and cure by yourself? The reaction of people to something that is a potential killer is mind-blowing,” Dr. Raul J. Rosenthal, the president of the society that funded the study, told The Times.

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Doctors and specialists told the Times that prescription drugs, surgery and medical treatments can all be effective — in addition to diet and exercise.

The survey included 1,509 nationally representative adults, with an oversample of African Americans and Hispanics.

Further, participants rated obesity a more serious threat than heart disease and diabetes, the NORC and ASMBS concluded. A few years ago, cancer, alone, was considered the most serious health threat.

Today, one-third of Americans are obese.