Healthy living

Commercial weight loss programmes better than NHS

Commercial weight loss programmes better and cheaper than NHS NHS costlier and less effective

Commercial weight loss programmes are more effective and cheaper than those provided by the NHS, a study has found.

Diet programmes such as Weight Watchers, Slimming World and Rosemary Conley are better at helping people lose weight than one-to-one counselling at GPs' surgeries or pharmacies, research by Birmingham University found.

The research, published online in the British Medical Journal, compared the effectiveness of several popular weight loss programmes with those available on the NHS.

In the study, 740 obese and overweight men and women were divided into six groups and attended either Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley, a group-based NHS programme called Size Down - run by local food advisers trained by dieticians - and one-to-one counselling in a pharmacy or GP's surgery.

A control group was provided with 12 vouchers for free entrance to a local fitness centre.

All programmes achieved significant weight loss after 12 weeks, ranging from around 1.4kg in the group that received one-to-one counselling from their GP to around 4.4kg in the group that attended Weight Watchers.

However, the NHS programmes were no better than attending the local fitness centre when it came to weight reduction.

At one year, significant weight loss occurred in all groups apart from the GP and pharmacy based one-to-one programmes.

The study found that Weight Watchers was the only programme to achieve "significantly greater weight loss" than the control group.

The findings confirm those of a recent study published in the journal Lancet which found that people attending Weight Watchers lost twice as much weight after a year compared with others who were given standard weight loss advice by their doctor.

The NHS programmes were also the worst attended, and the most costly to run, the researchers said. Weight Watchers was the best attended out of all the groups.

The researchers concluded: "Our findings suggest that a 12 week group based dedicated programme of weight management can result in clinically useful amounts of weight loss that are sustained at one year.

"Commercially provided weight management services are more effective and cheaper than primary care based services led by specially trained staff, which are ineffective."


Weight Watchers better than NHS for weight loss

This article was published on Fri 4 November 2011

Image © Danny Hooks -

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