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NHS patients should wear FAT SUITS to help teach medical students

Patients should wear FAT SUITS to help medical students learn ‘how to be nicer towards obese people and not discriminate’, claim researchers

  • German experts say fat patients are often treated with less respect by medics
  • They discovered medical students harbour the most prejudice towards obesity
  • Academics made the conclusion after getting thirteen patients to wear fat suits 

Patients should wear ‘fat suits’ to teach medical students not to discriminate against the obese, researchers have claimed.

German scientists say the stigma attached to obesity means fat patients are often treated with less respect by medical professionals.

In hope of overturning the trend, the academics have suggested obesity simulation suits could help teach doctors to be more respectful.

They found medical students harbour the most prejudice towards obesity, known to be detrimental to health and lead to an early grave.

Academics at University Hospital in Tuebingen – just south of Stuttgart – made the conclusion after getting 13 patients to wear fat suits.

The students tended to agree the suits – designed to simulate the appearance of a BMI between 30 and 39 – helped them to empathise with the patient (the patient is pictured normally top, and pictured while wearing the fat suit bottom)

The team said: ‘We strongly believe integrating an obesity simulation suit into the routine undergraduate medical teaching context is a valuable tool.’

Writing in a medical journal, they added: ‘It can raise medical students’ awareness for communication encounters with patients with obesity.’

Figures show around two thirds of Britons are overweight or obese – including almost half of employees working for the National Health Service (NHS).

Obesity has been proven to raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, all of which can all lead to an early death.

Destigmatising obesity is important for the future healthcare of overweight patients because rates are only set to spiral further, the scientists said.

Dr Teresa Lode, who led the proof-of-concept study, warned the stigma makes it harder for obese people to seek help for their health issues.

She wrote in the British Medical Journal Open: ‘Professionals have been found to communicate in a less patient-oriented and respectful way with patients with obesity.

‘They take less time for consultation and explanations, instead attributing the patients’ problems and symptoms to their weight rather than to other potential causes.’

Participants – who also included 207 second year medical students and 22 teachers – were quizzed about their attitudes towards obesity.

Each of the volunteers were asked to rank how much they agreed with 47 different statements on obesity on a scale of one to five after seeing the patient in a suit.

They included: ‘If fat people really wanted to lose weight, they could’, ‘Most fat people buy too much junk food’ and ‘fat people have no will power’.

Students were more likely to agree more strongly with the statements provided in the Anti-Fat Attitudes Test, according to the results.

All of the participants were also asked about the degree to which they felt they could engage in empathetic conversation with the patient wearing a fat suit.

The students tended to agree the suits – designed to simulate the appearance of a BMI between 30 and 39 – helped them to empathise with the patient.

More than half the patients (54 per cent) mentioned the suit was very hot to wear and around one in four (23 per cent) said it was cumbersome to put on and take off.

The fat suit suggestion comes after data last month revealed hundreds of obese people claim to have been fat-shamed by the NHS.

A probe found overweight patients have filed 332 complaints to the health service about how they have been spoken to over the past three years.

Doctors have reportedly called patients ‘cuddly’ or ‘stumpy’, with one member of the public even being accused of abusing her body due to her size.

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum told MailOnline: ‘Research frequently throws up the unexpected and who could have foreseen such an appalling response from the students. 

‘More than anyone they should know that there are many medical issues that predispose to fatness – genetic, metabolic and psychological – and there was a quick and “easy” way to understand how it feels.

‘They should have worn a suit for a week and experience how fatness feels from the inside. No further “role play” would have been needed.’ 


An adult is obese if they have a BMI – body mass index – over 30. 

A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in lbs by height in inches, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.  

The US is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and more than a third of adults are considered obese. Two thirds are overweight or obese, meaning they have BMIs over 25. 

Another one in five children are obese as well. 

In total, obesity is estimated to cost the US $149 in medical expenses each year. Half of that is paid for through the publicly-funded healthcare programs, Medicaid and Medicare.  

Around 35 percent of men and over 40 percent of women in the US are obese, raising their risks of a broad range of chronic diseases and death itself.  

Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.

Diabetes costs the US $327 billion a year, and accounts for one in every $7 spent on health care.   

Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death in the US, responsible for one in every four deaths. 

Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 13 different cancers: 

  • Cancer of the lining of the uterus 
  • Esophageal cancer 
  • Stomach cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Multiple myeloma 
  • Meningioma 
  • Pancreatic cancer 
  • Colorectal cancer 
  • Ovarian cancer 
  • Thyroid cancer 
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Breast cancer  

It is suspected that the chronic inflammation associated with obesity damages DNA which, in turn can be carcinogenic. 

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