(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

If, somehow, you think shaming overweight or obese people helps them lose weight, here's a news flash: It doesn't.

A new study from University College London evaluated the question: Are people who experience discrimination or negative interactions based on their weight actually encouraged to lose the extra pounds?

The answer, according to their findings, is a clear no.

Not only do people who report day-to-day discrimination not lose weight, they actually gain weight.

"Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain," the study's lead author, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement. "Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food."

Jackson, a researcher in University College London's department of epidemiology and public health, added: "Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it."

The study, published in the journal "Obesity," used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to look at a group of 2,944 British adults over the age of 50. Five percent of the study's subjects reported negative experiences because of their weight, including harassment, poor service in stores or restaurants, teasing and bad treatment from doctors or hospitals.

The people who reported day-to-day discrimination because of their weight gained about 2 pounds (0.95 kg) on average, and people who didn't lost about 1.6 pounds (0.71 kg) on average, according to the study.

The results were based on a survey, rather than experimental data, so you can't make conclusions about whether the fat-shaming actually caused the weight gain. But it suggests that casual or overt ill-treatment of overweight and obese people is hard to justify, whether it comes from health-care professionals or Internet bullies.