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Longer weight loss programme works and is cost-effective

Longer weight loss programme works and is cost-effective

Publication date: Wednesday, 07 June 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

Offering a year-long programme of weight loss classes could prevent an additional 1786 cases of cardiovascular disease for every 100,000 people compared to the existing 12-week NHS programme, according to a new study published in the Lancet.

Although upfront costs for the longer programme are higher, the study estimates that offering more sessions would be cost-effective as it would prevent more people from developing diseases in the future. The NHS currently refers people who are obese to 12-week long weight loss programmes. Although NICE recommends that such programmes last at least 12 weeks, there is little evidence to suggest how long they should last to be most effective.

The new study involves 1267 participants with a BMI of ≥28 and compares the effectiveness of a 12-week and year-long programme of free Weight Watchers sessions to one-off advice together with a self-help booklet.
After a year and two years, those in the year-long programme had lost more weight than those in the 12-week programme and those receiving one-off advice (Table).  Those in the year-long programme also saw their blood glucose level reduce by 0.54mmol per litre of blood (compared to reductions of 0.27mmol/litre for the 12-week group and 0.11mmol/litre for the self-help group).

Offering a year-long programme was estimated to prevent an additional 1786 cases of disease (including 642 fewer cases of hypertension, 373 fewer cases of diabetes and 104 fewer cases of heart disease) for every 100,000 people, compared to the 12-week programme.


Weight loss at 1 year

Weight loss at 2 years

Year-long programme



12-week programme

4.8 kg


Self-help and booklet



Table: Weight loss at one and two years.


The study shows the importance of intensive support and therapy for people wanting to reduce their weight. Prolonged access to active intervention might offer a simple and cost-effective method for improving weight loss outcomes in lifestyle intervention programmes.

Ahern A et al. Extended and standard duration weight-loss programme referrals for adults in primary care (WRAP): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2017; doi:

Topics covered:
Category: Evidence in Practice
Edition: Volume 2 Number 5 PCCJ Online 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

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