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About the evidence on male obesity

What is the research that this Highlight is based on?

The findings discussed in this Highlight are from two NIHR studies:

A systematic review, funded by the Health Technology Assessment Programme, into the evidence base for the management of obesity in men: Robertson C, Archibald D, Avenell A, Douglas F, Hoddinott P, van Teijlingen E, et al.Systematic reviews of and integrated report on the quantitative, qualitative and economic evidence base for the management of obesity in men. Health Technol Assess 2014;18(35)

A trial, funded by the Public Health Research Programme, of a weight loss programme for men run through football clubs in Scotland: Wyke S, Hunt K, Gray C, Fenwick E, Bunn C, Donnan P, et al.Football Fans in Training (FFIT): a randomised controlled trial of a gender-sensitised weight loss and healthy living programme for men end of study report. Public Health Res 2015;3(2)

How strong is the research evidence in this area?

There is limited evidence from the UK on the most effective weight-loss approaches for men. Those that exist mainly reflect the experience of white, middle class, middle aged men, and there is a lack of longer term data.

The systematic review discussed here is the largest and most complete analysis of all the available evidence. Although the evidence didn’t provide a complete picture, findings were consistent across a number of studies. In addition, the Football Fans in Training evaluation reinforces many of these conclusions, and the men in this study were from all socio-economic groups, though few were from ethnic minority groups.

How does this fit with current guidance on managing obesity?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a number of guidelines relating to the management of obesity. There is no NICE guidance that specifically covers the management of obesity in men, but much of the general adult guidance is applicable and reflects the findings of the research discussed here. For example, NICE recommends the commissioning of programmes which include dietary advice, physical activity and behaviour change, provide clear goals and targets for weight loss and physical activity, are tailored to the needs of different groups (including men), and are delivered by trained professionals. The evidence discussed here adds detail on which of these elements are likely to work best for men.

What’s happening next?

The NIHR is funding further work in this area, in particular a longer-term follow-up study of Football Fans in Training, to see if the men involved have maintained the weight loss they achieved in the original programme. This will report in September 2016.

The Football Fans in Training programme is now being tested within a number of other settings including rugby clubs, European football clubs, and prisons. More information is available on the project website.

The NIHR is also funding a range of other research relating to the management of obesity, including studies looking at prevention of obesity in children, strategies for maintenance of weight loss, and the use of bariatric surgery. You can explore some of this by visiting www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/projects and searching for ‘obesity’.

The Men’s Health Forum has published a more detailed guide on commissioning weight-loss services for men, based on the systematic review summarised in the highlight.

Disclaimer: This report by the NIHR Dissemination Centre, funded by the Department of Health, presents a synthesis of independent research. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NHS or the Department of Health. Where blogs, sound recordings and verbatim quotations are included in this publication the views and opinions expressed are those of the named individuals and do not necessarily reflect those of the authors, the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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