New study in The BMJ: Weight Watchers Diabetes Prevention Programme significantly reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes

 A new, 1 year UK-based study published today (Tuesday 17th October) in The BMJ, Open Diabetes and Research and Care indicates that overweight and obese adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes who were referred to Weight Watchers®, the world’s leading community based weight management provider, lost significantly more weight and saw greater reductions in their blood sugar levels than the level defined as success recommended by Public Health England (PHE).

And what’s more, close to 80% of eligible patients offered the programme, participated, demonstrating very high engagement levels.

The independent research, commissioned by the London Borough of Bromley Local Authority, looked at whether an augmented Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP) delivered by Weight Watchers using a primary care referral pathway could reduce the progression of type 2 diabetes in those at risk of developing the disease.

166 patients were referred to Weight Watchers DPP from 14 GP practices across Bromley. Patients were offered the programme, which included a special welcome session followed by Weight Watchers meetings for 48 weeks, supported by trained Coach and specific curriculum. This real world study was conducted by Carolyn Piper and Dr. Agnes Marossy in the Public Health department at the London Borough of Bromley Local Authority, Zoe Griffiths, Head of Programme and Public Health, Weight Watchers UK and Dr. Amanda Adegboye at the University of Westminster.

79% of eligible patients engaged in the programme. At 12 months, those who had attended the welcome session and started attending meetings (114) achieved a mean reduction in HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) of 2.84mmol/mol (from 43.42 +1.28 to 40.58 +3.41). Of those with comparable data, 49% returned to normoglycaemia (were no longer at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes) and a further 20% significantly reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This was associated with a mean weight reduction of 10kg and a mean reduction in BMI of 3.2kg/m2 (from 35.5kg/m2 +5.4 to 32.3kg/m2 +5.2) as well as increases in physical activity.

The researchers concluded that offering a primary care referral route partnered with Weight Watchers DPP can considerably reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

This evidence comes as type 2 diabetes, both incidence and prevalence in the UK is rising dramatically. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity and can therefore be reversed by weight loss.

Lead author Carolyn Piper Public Health Manager at the London Borough of Bromley Local Authority says: “Type 2 diabetes is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time. A new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is made every two minutes in the UK with the risk of developing the disease significantly influenced by our lifestyles. It’s within our power to reverse the ever increasing tide of type 2 diabetes with the right education and support. We undertook this research in the real world to show that the disease can easily be reversed using existing resources and providers in a more effective way at a time when budgets are being squeezed.”

Zoe Griffiths, Head of Programme and Public Health, Weight Watchers UK adds: “The evidence for reducing type 2 diabetes is well established but what this study demonstrates is how to implement prevention programmes in the real world utilising existing referral pathways and offering programmes that people want to go to. These real world outcomes echo and build on evidence of the effectiveness of this programme, found in a randomised controlled trial1 published in the American Journal of Public Health which compared Weight Watchers DPP to standard care.

“The lifestyle changes achieved in the intervention, measured by weight loss, translated into considerable reductions in diabetes risk, with an immediate and significant public health impact. Through GPs referring at risk patients to a programme that provides intense support via weekly meetings, digital tools including an app, a vibrant online community and specific curriculum, more effective and efficient lifestyle change can be achieved than interventions delivered by primary care alone.

“We’d welcome the opportunity to work with Public Health England as part of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme rollout. Close to 80% of eligible patients who were offered the Weight Watchers DPP programme engaged, illustrating the significant scale that could be achieved by working together.”

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