Voice of Diabetes
July 9, 2020

Do slimming clubs work for type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes healthcare

A study of over 34,000 slimmers suggests that going to a club every week can be an effective way to lose weight. But what does the evidence tell us about slimming clubs and type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes healthcare professionals have traditionally been quite sniffy about slimming clubs, perhaps because, compared to drugs and surgery, there has been little published evidence into whether they work.

That said, many Primary Care Trusts have been working with slimming clubs in recent years to offer ‘slimming on prescription’ schemes to people whose health would benefit from weight loss. And now a large-scale study of Slimming World members suggests that they are effective.

Published in the journal Obesity Facts, the study followed 34,271 people who were enrolled by their GP or healthcare professional on a 12-week ‘Slimming World on referral’ scheme. About 60% of people completed the course, and of those the average loss was 5.5% of their body weight. The amount that NICE regards as clinically significant when assessing a weight loss method is 5%. Those who attended the group for six months lost on average 8.5% of their body weight, and weight gain was prevented in over 90% of all patients referred.

WeightWatchers works too

The study didn’t focus on type 2 diabetes, although it is well known that losing excess weight is one of the first lines of treatment in preventing and managing it. However a small study of WeightWatchers members, published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in May 2010, showed that after a six-month programme, members who were at risk of type 2 and who attended at least two thirds of the weekly sessions significantly improved their fasting glucose and insulin levels as well as losing weight.

A four-year study of 5,145 participants in a US study called Look AHEAD has also shown that regular counselling meetings (in groups or one-to-one) together with advice on diet, exercise and goal setting – such as you would find at a good slimming club – can help people with diagnosed type 2 diabetes lose significantly more weight, and improve many other health measures, than people offered advice but much less frequent support.

Of course, a key question before you join any slimming club is whether the actual diet will be suitable for you if you have type 2 diabetes. Future DiabetesChoices posts will look at the individual clubs in more detail, but the clubs that are involved in NHS referral schemes  have eating plans that are nutritionally sound and flexible enough to adapt to individual requirements.

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