Addressing Obesity in Men

| May 1, 2023

Jennifer C. Seger, MD, FOMA, is the Co-clinical Editor of Bariatric Times; Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine; Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute of Texas, San Antonio, Texas.

Dear Readers,

To all the wonderful Dads out there, Happy Father’s Day! June is National Men’s Health Month, which makes the topic of this editorial fitting. 

Men make up half of our world’s population, and two-thirds are challenged with overweight or obesity. While the incidence of overweight or obesity is the same for men and women, numerous studies have confirmed that, for reasons no one fully understands, men are far less likely to seek treatment.1,2 

What gives, gentlemen? 

As a reader of Bariatric Times, you no doubt have an interest in obesity and want to see more people have access to care. Imagine when we finally pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), and someday in the not-too-distant future, insurers are required to provide comprehensive coverage for obesity treatment, including anti-obesity medications and bariatric surgery. Will this move the needle with men to seek and receive treatment, and if not, what will?

According to a 2015 study, men comprised just 20 percent of patients who underwent bariatric surgery,2 and they tended to have more obesity-associated adverse health problems. Based on the newest Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) data set, this percentage was even lower, at 17 percent. In addition, regarding nonsurgical treatment, my own cursory survey of fellow obesity medicine colleagues showed a similar range of 10 to 30 percent of male patients seeking obesity treatment.

With obesity being a major risk factor for insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, low testosterone, numerous cancers, cardiovascular disease, and so many other diseases,3 why aren’t more men doing everything they can to treat it? While treating obesity certainly is not a guarantee that these diseases will be resolved or put into remission, the question begs, why not try? 

My guess is there are several challenges: knowledge or the lack thereof about the disease of obesity; asking for help is often perceived as a sign of weakness; and the awareness gap regarding effective treatment options.

In preparation for this article, I came across a campaign called “Huddle Up: Let’s Talk Obesity,”4 created by a partnership between the National Football League (NFL) Alumni Association and Novo Nordisk after a survey revealed that 60 percent of the Alumni Association’s members were living with overweight or obesity. The campaign has been quite successful, winning a prestigious SABRE award in 2022. 

I have often wondered why there haven’t been more large-scale public awareness campaigns to educate people about the fact that obesity is a disease associated with numerous health risks and to highlight the existence of effective treatment options, as well as measures that can be taken to prevent it. 

It just makes sense—treating obesity effectively would decrease so many other diseases while saving money and improving quality of life. 

I clearly do not have all the answers, but I will leave you with this. Doing nothing and continuing to go along with the status quo will continue to lead to premature disability and death, something we can all agree is simply unacceptable. 

What are your thoughts on why this is happening and what we can do to change it? 

In health,

Jenny Seger, MD, FOMA


  1. Tsai SA, Lv N, Xiao L, Ma J. Gender differences in weight-related attitudes and behaviors among overweight and obese Adults in the United States. Am J Mens Health. 2016;10(5):389–398.
  2. Ward B. Why do obese men get bariatric surgery far less than women? University of California San Diego. 29 Apr 2015. Accessed 24 May 2023.
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Research. Being overweight or obese is linked with heart disease even without other metabolic risk factors. 7 Nov 2017. Accessed 22 May 2023.
  4. National Football League Alumni. Huddle up: let’s talk obesity. Accessed 22 May 2023.  

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