Scientists to determine longer-term effects of weight loss programmes

13 February 2018        

Category: Research

Scientists at the University of Oxford will seek to establish the longer-term health effects of weight management programmes. 

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Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce has been awarded £143,000 by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to carry out a review to determine the long-term effects of programmes involving diet and exercise on weight and overall health.

Being overweight or obese increase the risk of heart and circulatory disease. Programmes of diet or physical activity can help people lose weight, but most studies also show that many people regain some or all of that weight after the programme ends. It is unclear to what extent the health benefits persist when weight is regained.

This review will take an overview of all the existing evidence to examine which interventions may be the most effective. Dr Hartmann-Boyce will examine data from over 300 research studies that followed the health of people during and after a weight loss programme. 

By combining the data from these studies, Dr Hartmann-Boyce hopes to provide accurate information on typical weight changes and the effects on health after programmes end. She will also seek to identify the components of those programmes which are linked to the most successful outcomes.

Data review

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford said: “There is a perception that diets don’t work in the long-term. This can deter people from attempting to lose weight, and discourage doctors from referring patients to those programmes. 

“By reviewing the data from hundreds of studies, this research will provide insight into which programmes are the most successful in helping people keep weight off. 

“There is also a view that if people regain weight after going on a weight loss programme, they won’t have any of the health benefits. However, this isn’t necessarily supported by data, so reviewing these studies will also help us understand whether there are long-term benefits to weight loss even if weight is regained.

“Our results will give patients and doctors better information with which to shape their decisions about weight loss programmes.”  

Knowledge gap

Dr Subreena Simrick, Senior Research Advisor at the BHF, said: “Previous studies have examined the effectiveness of weight management programmes in helping people lose weight. But researchers and clinicians have a very limited understanding of the health implications of any weight regain. 

“This project is attempting to fill that gap in our knowledge and improve strategies to reduce overweight and obesity. 

“This work is only possible thanks to the public’s continued support. It is only by continuing to fund research projects like these that we can make progress in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in the UK.”