Extending National Health Service (NHS) weight-loss programmes in the UK from one session per week for 12-weeks to one session per week for a year helped people who are overweight to lose more weight and keep it off for longer. The study was published in The Lancet on 3 May 2017, and led by researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool and University of Oxford.

More cost effective

Although upfront costs for the longer programme are higher, the study estimates that offering more sessions would be cost-effective to the NHS in the long-term because it would help to prevent more people from developing diseases as a result of their weight.

Community weight-loss groups

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“This trial provides important data that offering support to lose weight – by referring people to a community weight-loss group – is more successful than a self-help approach, and that providing classes for longer helps people keep weight off for longer,” says Professor Susan Jebb, senior author of the study, University of Oxford, UK.

“Our results also show that, in the long-term, weight-loss groups are cost-effective for society as a whole because they are likely to reduce future healthcare expenditure by preventing costly conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.”

Lifestyle programmes

Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Emily Brindal, CSIRO, Australia, said: “Lifestyle programmes, which target improved diet and exercise practices, reliably produce clinically relevant weight changes and are viable options that can reach multiple populations and be delivered on a large scale…

“The results presented by lead author Dr Amy Ahern, MRC Epidemiology Unit at The University of Cambridge, UK and colleagues suggest that prolonged access to active intervention might offer a simple and cost-effective method for improving weight loss outcomes in lifestyle intervention programmes. This is an important finding because higher initial weight loss can improve long-term success of weight management,” concludes Dr Brindal.

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