NHS weight loss app is as good as visit to slimming group, study finds
14th October 2022

NHS weight loss app is as good as visit to a slimming group with people one stone lighter in a year, study finds

  • More than 12,500 now use free app Oviva through the NHS to lose weight 
  • It is used by those with type 2 diabetes and those overweight trying to prevent it
  • The app allowed patients to set goals, track meals and learn to be healthier 
  • A study has found these slimming tactics are the ones most linked to weight loss 

A slimming group is not necessary to lose weight as people can lose a stone while going it alone, a study has found.

More than 12,500 people in England now use a free app through the NHS to lose weight, including those with type 2 diabetes and who are overweight and trying to prevent type 2 diabetes.

The app allows patients to set goals, photograph meals to track what they eat and learn how to be healthier – all at home. 

Now a study has found it is these slimming tactics which are most linked to weight loss.

More than 12,500 people in England now use a free app through the NHS to lose weight, including those with type 2 diabetes and who are overweight and trying to prevent type 2 diabetes (file photo)

Every time she sits down for a meal, Heidi Gibson takes a photo of it first.

Every day she steps on scales configured to link with the Oviva app.

After her GP said her type 2 diabetes was not under control in January, Miss Gibson, at 17st 2lb, went on a three-month diet of soups and shakes, and on to healthy food with the app. The 53-year-old, inset, has lost almost five stone in eight months, and reversed her diabetes.

The grandmother from Beverley, Yorkshire, said: ‘Knowing my weight and meals are getting automatically sent to an app, and health experts can see them, makes indulging in a sneaky chocolate bar seem less appealing.’

Every time she sits down for a meal, Heidi Gibson (pictured) takes a photo of it first

It also offers face-to-face meetings with a weight loss coach, such as those provided by traditional slimming classes.

But this appeared to play far less of a role in weight loss, when researchers analysed data for more than 25,000 people.

The results suggest adopting a DIY diet, with occasional motivational messages through an app, can work very well.

People who used the app were found to be an average of a stone lighter a year after starting the diet. 

This was the result for those who used the app for periods of either three or 12 months.

Lucy Jones, senior study author and lead dietitian at the app company Oviva, said: ‘People traditionally associate losing weight with slimming classes, weekly weigh-ins, and peer group support.

‘But that can put some people off and make them feel insecure, particularly if they have been unsuccessful at previous slimming classes, or because there may be a competitive element in losing weight with other people.’ 

Some of the app’s components include photographing meals so an algorithm can suggest healthier alternatives. 

It also tracks weight, alcohol consumption and exercise. 

Another is goal-setting, such as pledging 5,000 steps in a day.

But the study of 25,706 people – of which 14,000 were UK NHS patients and the rest from Switzerland and Germany – found the number of face-to-face and telephone appointments with coaches were not linked to weight loss.

Occasional tips in the app seemed to suffice and were linked to weight loss, according to the study in the journal Nutrients.

But it concludes that different methods work for different people so an app at home may be suitable for many who find it more convenient than face-to-face support.

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