Is 3 percent weight loss enough. Government tell us to Lose a Little

By May 28, 2014 Uncategorized No Comments

“Lose a little and keep it off” – today the BBC have reported on the new Government strategy for weight loss ( According to the BBC report, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) wants to see more overweight and obese people referred by their GP (or other health care providers) to local weight management services. The new NICE guidance maintains that average weight losses of 3% will set people on the right path provided that they keep the weight off. This should, in theory, reduce some of the health care expenses associated with the nation’s bulging waist lines.

What’s not so clear in the BBC news report is how they arrived at the figure of 3%. For those of us who have studied and worked in the world of nutrition and weight loss, the Holy Grail for weight loss is 5% (preferably 10%). 5% is associated with meaningful changes in health outcomes and markers for disease. Leaving aside the science of health and the economics of health care costs, 5% is also more likely to produce visible changes in their appearance for the individual. To put things into context a person with a start weight of 13st (or 82.55 kilos) would lose 3% of their body weight by losing 5lb 7oz (2.47 kilos) – which is good but 5% would equate to a weight loss of just over 9lbs (4.13 kilos).

Having read the NICE guidelines (Overweight and obese adults – lifestyle weight management: guidance) it would seem that 3% is the average amount of weight lost in lifestyle weight management programmes and that it was concluded that 3% was “likely” to bring health benefits (assuming that the weight is kept off for many years). So, in effect, they have reversed engineered it. Having found that 3% is the average weight lost, they have set that as the target.

On a positive note, many people do lose more that 3%. NICE state that 30% of participants in weight management programmes lose 5% and from our personal experience we will all have met someone who was considerably more successful than that. On another positive note the guidance also promotes re-referral into weight loss programmes. So for people who didn’t quite manage to get it right the first time there is a chance to go again. It’s also positive to see that access to services won’t be restricted to people who are in the obese category (although they caveat this by saying “where capacity allows”;) and that overweight people can also be referred.

On a final note, what’s my take on it? I am with those who believe that targets of 3% don’t go far enough but I am happy to see steps taken towards greater access to weight management services.

Link to the BBC article


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