Adults who are obese can improve their health by losing even a small amount of weight

Adults who are overweight or obese can improve their health by losing even a small amount of weight if they keep it off, according to health watchdog NICE.

Obesity increases the risk of serious conditions including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, although the greater the weight loss, the greater the benefit, even a modest weight loss of 3% kept off for life may improve or prevent health problems.

New guidance published by NICE looks at how lifestyle weight management programmes focusing on diet, activity and the way people live their lives (behaviour change) can help people who are overweight or obese to lose weight and to keep it off.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: “The number of people who are overweight or obese in England is rising. More than a quarter of adults are now classified as obese and a further 42% of men and a third of women are overweight. It not only damages their health but dealing with the long-term consequences of obesity costs the NHS around £5.1 billion each year. It is a huge cost to the health service.

“Lifestyle programmes are one part of the solution. An environment that makes it easier for people to be active and eat well is also crucial, as are services for people with other issues that affect their health and wellbeing. The guidance isn’t about quick fixes. There is no ‘magic bullet’. It is about ensuring effective services are there to support people in the long term.”

Gill Fine, independent public health nutritionist and chair of the group which developed the NICE guidance, said: “Obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing the UK. It’s a complex problem with no single solution, but programmes which aim to help people manage their weight can make a difference. What we have done in this new guidance is to identify the key components that need to be included in these programmes for them to be effective. These include setting realistic weight loss and weight maintenance goals, ensuring the programme is at least 12 weeks long and making sure the people running the programme are properly trained. We hope that these practical recommendations will help people make life-long lifestyle changes so they lose weight and most importantly help prevent those pounds from coming back.”

Carol Weir, head of service for nutrition and dietetics at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and NICE guidance developer, said: “Programmes focusing on diet, activity and making changes to behaviour really are effective in helping people lose weight, and this guidance will help ensure that these programmes are commissioned and run in the best possible way. We are recommending a number of elements to support people in making changes that they can stick to.

“We need to focus on more than just diet and being more active. Using tools such as weight monitoring and setting realistic personal goals are really important. We also found that a lot of overweight or obese people were put off seeking help because they felt that they were being blamed for being unable to lose weight and the position they have found themselves in. Therefore the guidance also recommends that doctors and other health professionals should ensure the tone they use when communicating with people who need help with their weight is respectful and non-judgemental.”

The new guidance includes: ‘Commissioners of lifestyle weight management services should commission or recommend lifestyle weight management programmes that address dietary intake, physical activity levels and behaviour change.’

View the full news item on the NICE website at