VEGA News Item

Weight Watchers Wins Over Budgeting GPs - 15/07/2010

Good Results from International Treatments for Obesity

1.  Two studies run by the Medical Research Council prove that Weight Watchers “really does work” and is a cheap and effective way for the NHS to tackle Britain’s huge obesity problem. Dr. Susan Jebb, head of nutrition and health research at the MRC’s human nutrition research centre in Cambridge, is an advisor to the government and a member of the Foresight team, whose 2007 report warned that more than half the population would be obese by 2050, costing the nation an estimated £46 billion.

2.  Jebb’s interest in Weight Watchers “is that it does not just offer another variety of diet – they are in the tricky business of behavior change.” People with a weight problem go to a weekly class, where they get help and support, as well as advice on what to eat and a way of monitoring their food intake thru a points system. The MRC, the UK’s leading research body, carried out the studies but Weight Watchers paid the costs – as drug companies pay for trials of their drugs. Susan Jebb pointed out that she has not been paid for her involvement.

3.  Jebb and her colleags carried out 2 pieces of work. One was an audit of the weight loss of almost 30,000 people who had been put on a 12-session course by their GP. The other was a research trial, comparing over a much longer period of people who went to Weight Watchers with those who got normal care and support from their GP practice. On average the weight loss of those referred by their GP was 2.8kg; but that average included those who went only once and some who didn’t go at all. More than half – 58% - completed the course. Their average weight loss was 5.2kg and they lost at least 5% in weight. Even better, 12% lost more than 10% in weight. The research trial took place in Australia and Germany, as well as the UK. About 800 people took part, randomized either to a Weight Watchers course or to their local health service care. Although the drop out rate was high, fewer people dropped out among those who joined Weight Watchers.

4.  Those who completed a year of Weight Watchers lost nearly 7kg, but those managed by their GP lost 3.9kg. About two-thirds of the Weight Watchers group lost 5% in weight, compared with one-third of the others. Results were almost identical in all 3 countries. These studies were not for every one, but GPs may well consider the £45 for 12 sessions of Weight Watchers – or a similar slimming club – to be worth trying.

5.  Launching its comprehensive Green Plans for research into farming, food, health, and the land and the included Campaign for Real Bread (CAMREB) we, then researchers for the Vegetarian Society, trumped the MRC’s latest audit with the observation that Britain was becoming “a nation of constipated, toothless, fatties.” This message was eagerly taken up, including we’ve been told by the Wall Street Journal, enjoying further evidence of the decadence in the effete Brits. In fact, the statement was more relevant for the Americans themselves and it is telling the tragedy of a worldwide corollary of affluence and greed. The latest MRC results come at an opportune time, as the Coalition Gout faces the challenges in the MRC study in a modern context in which self control and discipline must play a big part. Prime Ministers and their Chancellors must concede the unfortunate contrast in a Britain troubled and weakened by years of indulgence and surrender to the evils of alcohol and cigarets.


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