What's more, overweight patients were eight times more likely and obese patients five times more likely to state that they wanted to lose weight, and more than twice as likely to have tried to shed pounds if their physician had talked to them about the issue.
"There are big jumps in people recognizing their weight and wanting to lose," said Post.
The bad news was that fewer than half of people with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more (25 is the low end of overweight) said their physician had talked to them about their weight.
Why do doctors seem so reluctant to do so, especially since obesity is linked to such health problems as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers?
In addition to well-known time constraints, "there may be some issues with not wanting to offend people," Post said.
"It's not the most comfortable topic," Simmons agreed. He does think more doctors are talking to their patients about their weight, however -- something he believes will eventually slow the tide of obesity.
For the second study, 457 patients in the Netherlands with a body mass index of 25 to 40 were randomly picked to get lifestyle counseling from a nurse practitioner (involving both in-person visits and telephone consultations) or "usual" care from their general practitioner.
Sixty percent of participants in both groups stayed at a steady weight over a follow-up period of three years.
"If you do bring it up, people are more likely to take that first step towards change, which is recognizing that there's a problem," Post said.
In a commentary accompanying the articles, Dr. Robert B. Baron of the University of California, San Francisco, suggests a new office strategy for doctors: measuring weight and height and calculating BMI at every visit, with BMI as "a routine vital sign."
Physicians "should then str
All rights reserved