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NICE publishes updated guidance on preventing weight gain

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A new guideline that aims to help adults and children maintain a healthy weight and prevent weight gain has been published by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.

The new guidance updates a section of the NICE guideline on obesity published in 2006 and emphasises that any improvements, however small, to physical activity or dietary habits are likely to help individuals to stay at a healthy weight or prevent further weight gain.

“This updated guideline offers practical recommendations and examples to ensure people get advice about maintaining a healthy weight”

Gillian Leng

The guidance recommends that health professionals “clearly communicate” the benefits of gradual improvements to physical activity and dietary habits, noting that it as important for patients who are currently a healthy weight as for people who are already overweight.

It states that weight gain in adulthood “is not inevitable” and that it is possible to avoid gaining weight with age by being physically active and eating a diet based on foods and drinks with a lower energy density.

In general, the guidance said all patients should be encouraged to be more physically active and to reduce sedentary behaviour.

Examples include increasing regular walking or cycling as a form of travel, increasing activity as part of daily routines – such as taking the stairs instead of the lift – and reducing TV viewing.

In addition, everyone should be encouraged to follow a diet that is mainly based on vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, wholegrains and fish.

Patients should also be encouraged to reduce how often they eat “energy-dense foods and drinks”, such as fried foods, biscuits, confectionary and drinks made with full fat milk or cream.

These should be substituted with foods and drinks with a lower energy density, such as fruit and vegetables or water and avoiding sugary drinks, including carbonated drinks, sports drinks, squashes.

Further advice relating to children and young people says they should be encouraged and supported to be “active at every opportunity” and that they should get enough sleep, noting that lack of it may increase the risk of excess weight gain.

The guidance also calls on clinicians to encourage adults to limit alcohol consumption and advise them that all alcoholic drinks are a “source of additional energy”.

For example, a man drinking 3–4 units will be consuming around 200–325 extra calories a day and a woman drinking 2–3 units will be consuming around 140–260 extra calories.

Meanwhile, the guidance gives examples of “simple and easy ways” people can keep an eye on their weight, such as using one of the numerous apps available to track physical activity or food intake.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: “This updated guideline offers practical recommendations and examples to ensure people get advice about maintaining a healthy weight, which is specific and helpful so they know the most useful changes to make.”

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