Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, found the 'bedside manner' of doctors towards fit women was markedly different to their overweight counterparts.
The study concluded this was because health professionals believe obese women should be doing more to help themselves.
They discovered that doctors are no less professional in diagnosing or treating large patients’ illnesses, but that they were simply 'nicer'.
This attitude could have a negative impact on the health of overweight patients as the research also shows that a lack of empathy between a doctor and their patient can reduce the effectiveness of health advice.
A patient is less likely to take on board tips about lifestyle changes if there is no rapport between them and the professional giving the advice.
The researchers looked at 39 primary care doctors and the kind of relationships they built up with 208 of their patients.
They found that the physicians had far less of an 'emotional rapport' with overweight patients than with those of normal weight.
Professor Kimberly Gudzune, who lead the research, said: “Bonding and empathy are essential to the patient-physician relationship.
“When physicians express more empathy....patients are more likely to adhere to medical recommendations and respond to behaviour-change counselling, all vital elements in helping overweight and obese patients lose weight and improve health."
A New York doctor, who declined to be named, added: “When a fit woman, a bodybuilder or a woman who obviously lifts weights and puts in the time in the gym comes to see me I know that what I say will be taken seriously.
“These women clearly care about their health and that is half the battle for a doctor.”#
(Pic is Blonde Chic from blondechic.net )