Public Health Nutrition


Awareness and knowledge about weight status and management: results from the 1 d sensitization campaign ‘Obesity Day’ in northern Italy

Michela Barichellaa1, Alexis E Malavazosa2, Giuseppe Fatatia3 and Emanuele Ceredaa4 c1 for the ADI Lombardia Study Group

a1 Servizio di Dietetica e Nutrizione Clinica, Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento, Milano, Italy

a2 U.O. di Diabetologia e Malattie Metaboliche, IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, San Donato Milanese, Milano, Italy

a3 U.O. di Dietetica e Nutrizione Clinica, Azienda Ospedaliera ‘S.Maria’, Terni, Italy

a4 Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Alimentari e Microbiologiche (DISTAM), International Center for the Assessment of Nutritional Status (ICANS), Università degli Studi di Milano, via Botticelli 21, 20133 Milano, Italy


Objective To evaluate the awareness and knowledge about weight status and its management.

Design A 1 d cross-sectional survey. Basic anthropometric assessments (weight, height, BMI and waist circumference) and a self-administered questionnaire were considered.

Setting Nineteen Clinical Nutrition or Endocrinology and Metabolic Disorders Units or Dietetics Services in the Italian region of Lombardy.

Subjects All adults attending the ‘Obesity Day’ initiative.

Results A total of 914 participants (605 female and 309 male) were recruited. Although most of the participants (83·5 %) considered obesity to be a disease, 38·5 % were likely to misperceive their weight status. In particular, 38·8 % of normal-weight adults believed themselves to be overweight, whereas 71·1 % and 37·5 % of classes I and II/III obese adults classified themselves as being overweight and mildly obese, respectively. However, most of the overweight (90·2 %), mildly (96·8 %) and moderately/severely obese adults (99·1 %) recognized the need to lose weight. In all, 37·8 % of the sample underestimated the role of physical activity in weight management. Interestingly, only 17·2 % of dieters (previous or current) declared being advised by their doctor to lose weight. Multivariate models revealed that higher age, low education and higher BMI were important determinants of poor weight control and management. In addition, previous dieting appeared not to provide better knowledge, whereas the role of physical activity was recognized mainly by those practising it.

Conclusions The present study suggests that in Italy knowledge about weight management should be improved not only in the general population but also among health-care professionals. To confirm this finding, there is now the rationale for a nationally representative survey. New educational programmes can be designed on the basis of the information collected.

(Received March 26 2010)

(Accepted January 09 2011)

(Online publication February 22 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email