Fat shaming has long been known to cause detrimental effects on mental health, but it could directly impact physical health, as well. Those who felt stigmatized due to their weight had higher risks of metabolic syndrome, the risk factors involved in diabetes, heart disease and other ailments, researchers have found.

The study, published Thursday in the scientific journal Obesity, was conducted by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It sought to study the effects of negative, prejudicial beliefs known as weight bias as well as the discrimination known as weight stigma, which many overweight people experience.

“When people with obesity internalize weight bias, they start believing that negative stereotypes apply to themselves,” Ted Kyle, spokesperson for The Obesity Society, said in a press release. “Not only is this an unfair generalization, it can actually harm the mental and physical health of people with obesity.”

Researchers studied 159 participants, mostly African-American women who had been notoriously under-represented in previous studies, dividing them into two categories. Those who experienced higher “weight bias internalization” were found to have a three times greater risk of having metabolic syndrome and six times greater odds of having high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.

“These initial findings emphasize that blaming and shaming people with obesity does not help them to improve their health, and in fact may make the problem worse,” said Rebecca Pearl, assistant professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s lead author.

The study’s authors emphasized the importance of making health care providers, the media and the public aware of the risk factors involved in weight shaming.

“There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health,” said Pearl. “We are finding it has quite the opposite effect.”