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Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
Obese patients to diet for science
Overweight man
Reducing obesity could cut the NHS bill
Researchers are hoping to recruit 400 overweight and obese people for a study to see whether excess weight and a lack of exercise causes the joints of the knee to fail.

If this were proved it could save the NHS thousands in knee replacement surgery and drugs.

The UK is officially the eighth most obese country in the world, with 20% of the population classed as obese and between 30-40% as overweight.

The rising weight of the nation is taking its toll on health.


It won't be easy for them, especially as they are surrounded by people in their homes who are not making these changes to their diet and lifestyle

Dr Jonathan Webber

Obesity is the main risk factor for developing osteoarthritis of the knee and is also held responsible for the rapid rise in type-2 diabetes.

But experts think that by eliminating obesity they could prevent between a quarter and a half of all cases of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Overweight people
Some patients will also be given an exercise routine

The volunteers will all be recruited from GP surgeries in the Nottingham area and scientists hope to start the study this September.

They will be split into two groups, one undergoing a tough weight loss programme, the others will simply get advice leaflets.

Half of both groups will also be put through an exercise programme to strengthen the quadricep muscles in their knees.

This will allow scientists to study whether it is the lack of exercise or the excess weight which has caused the problems.

Weight

Doctors use body mass index (BMI) as a simple way to assess whether a patient needs to lose weight.

The calculation is based on comparing a person's weight with their body height - it applies equally to men and women.

The body mass index is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.

A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and one of 30 or above is considered obese.

Trial co-ordinator Claire Jenkinson of the University of Nottingham said the hardest part of the trial could be ensuring people achieve the weight loss.

"But they are going to get a lot of support and at first they will be getting monthly visits."

Dr Jonathan Webber, an honorary consultant and senior lecturer in clinical nutrition and metabolism, agreed but said those failing to meet the weight loss targets could be given the weight loss pills Orlistat or Reductil.

"If these people are motivated enough to get involved in the trial, and being given support, it's likely that up to two thirds of them will lose weight within three months.

"But it won't be easy for them, especially as they are surrounded by people in their homes who are not making these changes to their diet and lifestyle."

The study, which will cost over 430,000 has been sponsored by the Arthritis Research Campaign and British Society for Rheumatology.

See also:

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