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GP Weight Watchers referral reduces glucose levels in over a third of patients

Over a third of patients with elevated HbA1c levels achieved normoglycaemia after being referred to a Weight Watchers programme by their GP, a study has found.

Patients with non-diabetic hyperglycaemia, raised HbA1c levels that put patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, who were referred to a Weight Watchers diabetes prevention programme by their GP experienced significant reductions in glucose levels, with just over a third achieving normal levels, as well as significant weight loss.

The study, conducted by researchers in London, looked at 114 overweight and obese patients from 14 practices with elevated HbA1c levels.

GPs were asked to identify eligible patients and refer them to a Weight Watchers diabetes prevention program, an intensive evidence-based programme involving an initial ‘activation session’ on diabetes prevention plus 48 weeks of community group meetings where patients worked towards losing weight and increasing exercise levels.

There was a significant average reduction in HbA1c levels from baseline at 12 months, from 43.4 mmol/mol to 40.6mmol/mol, and 38% of patients had achieved normoglycaemia at 12 months. Patients also lost, on average, 10kg after a year on the intervention.

The researchers suggested that the Weight Watchers program was a simple, potentially cost-effective way to carry out diabetes prevention in patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

They said in the paper: ‘A UK primary care referral route partnered with this commercial weight management provider can deliver an effective DPP. The lifestyle changes and weight loss achieved in the intervention translated into considerable reductions in diabetes risk, with an immediate and significant public health impact.

‘This study evidences how to roll out prevention programs in the real world utilising existing referral pathways. There is a need to spread the findings of what works to ensure the successful delivery of the Five Year Forward View, at a time when public sector budgets are being increasingly squeezed.

‘A strength of this study was that it utilized an existing GP referral pathway rather than expensive outreach recruitment teams or costly letters to patients.’

NICE finalised guidance for GPs referring at-risk patients for lifestyle interventions as part of the NHS’ flagship Diabetes Prevention Programme in September. 

BMJ Open Diabetes Res. Care 2017; available online 16th October




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