Research by a Cambridge-based group has found that obese patients referred to a year-long programme such as Weight Watchers lose twice as much weight as those offered standard care on the NHS.
The Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research Unit studied the progress of 772 overweight people. The patients were either given 12 months free membership of Weight Watchers, or offered advice on health and slimming by an NHS primary care team. After a year, those on the slimming programme had lost an average of 11lbs 4oz. The patients receiving standard NHS care lost 4lbs 13oz.
Lead researcher Dr Susan Jebb and her co-authors said commercial programmes “can offer a clinically useful early intervention for weight management in overweight and obese people that can be delivered at large scale”.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, a London-based GP, said she was not surprised by the research.
“What we need are sustainable weight programmes and many of these programmes, not just Weight Watchers, will help you to retrain your eating habits in the long term.” she said. “It’s not easy. It’s not a quick fix, but it works better than the quick fix.”
Commercial weight loss schemes are already offered to many NHS patients, but they usually last for just 12 weeks. The government says it has no immediate plans to offer long-term weight loss programmes on the NHS at the moment but said it would look at the research.
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