The study highlights the need for people to take action on unhealthy weight gain to safeguard against the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Overweight

New research has revealed that people seeking weight loss help from the NHS during the pandemic are 5 lbs heavier on average than those starting the programme during the previous 3 years.

The study, Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on body weight in people at high risk of type 2 diabetes referred to the English NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, showed that people aged under 40 enrolling in the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme have seen the greatest differences in weight and are an average of 8 lbs heavier than those enrolling before. It is estimated that weight gain of 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, can increase someone’s risk of diabetes by around 8%.

Lead study author, Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, said that the study showed why people should come forward for help.

‘The pandemic has changed every part of our lives and taken a toll on mind and body, with thousands of people paying a heavy price, and many gaining weight during lockdown. The increase in weight also means an increased risk of type 2 diabetes—which is associated with many of the common types of cancer, blindness, [and] amputations, as well as heart attacks and strokes.’

Action on type 2 diabetes

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a range of actions for the prevention, treatment, and care of diabetes, including expanding the Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme so that 200,000 people a year could benefit, and piloting low-calorie diets for those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to put the condition into remission.

As well as being referred for support by their GP practice, people can now self-refer for support by using an online tool, hosted by Diabetes UK, to calculate their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by answering a series of questions about risk factors including age, weight, and ethnicity. If their score comes back as moderate or high, they will now be able to refer themselves to the local service for support remotely or online, without having to go through a healthcare professional.

According NHS England, more than 405,000 people have been helped by the Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme since it was first established in 2016 and have been provided with bespoke advice on healthy eating, physical exercise, and weight management. Latest NHS data show that people completing the programme typically achieve an average weight loss of 3.3 kg, and 3.6 kg for those who are overweight or obese, reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes significantly.

The NHS has fast-tracked access to the programme after research found that people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 if they have type 2 diabetes.