- Do ‘meal replacements’ actually help you to lose weight in the long-term?
- Is weighing yourself every day enough to prevent obesity?
- Could feedback on the nutritional content of your shopping basket help you to make healthier choices in the supermarket?
These are among the questions researchers across the University of Oxford are asking, through a raft of new studies funded by the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing long-term and life-limiting health problems, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
In Oxfordshire, according to Public Health England, between 2012 and 2014 almost 61 per cent of adults were either overweight or obese.
‘Most people who are overweight tell us they would welcome support to lose weight, but to help people make healthier food choices and control their weight we need to find out which methods are truly effective,’ says Professor Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health at Oxford University’s Nuffield department of Primary Care Health Sciences, who leads the CLAHRC’s new ‘Behaviour change: Diet and Obesity’ research theme. She continued, ‘these new studies are exciting because they create interesting new partnerships between the academic, health and commercial sectors to find new ways to improve health’.
Three projects in our new ‘Behaviour change: Diet and Obesity’ theme, all carried out in Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, aim to do just that.
The first project, led by Research Fellow Dr Nerys Astbury, will examine the effectiveness of meal replacements, such as low-calorie soups, shakes and portion-controlled foods, to help people lose weight. They will identify the factors associated with success and use this information to develop a programme that GPs or nurses could recommend for people to follow at home.
The second project, led by GP and Professor of Behavioural Medicine Professor Paul Aveyard, will examine the thoughts and feelings that help or hinder weight loss in people who weigh themselves regularly. Dr Aveyard’s team will then develop and trial a smartphone app which coaches people through the steps to successful weight loss through self-weighing at home.
The final study, led by Research Fellow Dr Carmen Piernas, will work with a local supermarket to give people monthly feedback on the nutritional content of their food shopping, based on information collected on their reward card. This will focus initially on saturated fat, a risk factor for heart disease. The reward card data will be used to suggest healthier alternatives to foods high in saturated fat, such as butter and red meat, to help people with high cholesterol to reduce their risk of heart disease.
The work has been awarded £560,000 funding from the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford, which is an initiative led by the National Institute for Health Research – the research arm of the NHS – and is hosted by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. The CLAHRC funds and supports collaborative research projects into developing creative new ways of providing and targeting health services across Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley region by bringing together universities, charities, local authorities and industry.
In addition to funding projects themed around behaviour change in diet and obesity, the CLAHRC is also launching a further nine projects – representing a total investment of £3.5 million. These projects target health and social care issues ranging from preventing falls in the elderly to identifying and treating cancer patients who have depression.
‘Tackling local problems in health and social care is a key goal of the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford,’ said Professor Richard Hobbs, Director of the CLAHRC. ‘By working with universities, charities, industry and local health services we believe these projects could make a real difference to the health and well-being of people in Oxfordshire, the Thames Valley and the wider country.’
Brief details of other new NIHR CLAHRC Oxford funded projects:
Implementing evidence-based depression care in the Oxford Cancer Centre (OCC) – Led by Professor Michael Sharpe, Professor of Psychological Medicine, University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry.
Screening cancer patients for symptoms of depression and treating their depression with a specially developed collaborative programme called ‘Depression Care for People with Cancer’ (DCPC).
Self-monitoring of blood pressure for pregnant women with long-term high blood pressure (OPTIMUM-BP) – Led by GP and DPhil Clinical Research Fellow Dr Louise Pealing, University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
Self-monitoring of blood pressure at home to gain better control of blood pressure for pregnant women who have chronic hypertension (long-term raised blood pressure), putting them at greater risk of developing a potentially dangerous condition for mother and baby, called ‘pre-eclampsia’.
CollabOrative Care Model for Bipolar DisOrder (COMBO) – Led by Dr Mary-Jane Attenburrow, University of Oxford Nuffield Department of Psychiatry
Assessing the use of True Colours (TC), a web-based symptom monitoring service for people with bipolar disorder which allows people to record their symptoms over time, in GP surgeries and developing a smartwatch app version of TC.
Preventing falls and fractures in the elderly – Led by Professor Sallie Lamb, Kadoorie Professor of Trauma Rehabilitation, University of Oxford
Using existing information on falls and fractures collected by health and social care services and analysing it in new ways to see how well different schemes intended to prevent falls actually work – which ones should we be using?
OPtimising Treatment for MIld Systolic hypertension in the Elderly (OPTiMISE) – Led By MRC Research Fellow, Dr James Sheppard, University of Oxford Nuffield department of Primary Care Health Sciences
A project aiming to reduce the amount of drugs taken by Patients aged over 80 who have high blood pressure and take two or more blood pressure lowering drugs, using self-monitoring of blood pressure.
Using patient experience feedback to improve health services – Led by Professor Ray Fitzpatrick, Professor of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Oxford Nuffield Department of Population Health
Working with NHS staff and patients to gather, analyse and use feedback on patients’ experiences to improve local health services.
Clinical Decision Making in Ambulatory Emergency Care Settings – Led by Dr Sara McKelvie, GP and Researcher, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Understanding how clinical decisions are made in Emergency Multidisciplinary Units (EMUs) in Oxfordshire to improve training and decision making to improve patient safety: What are the factors that influence decision making? How does the day-unit environment of EMUs influence decisions?
Self-directed and supervised exercise treatments for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand – Led by Dr Esther Williamson, Research Fellow at NDORMS, University of Oxford.
Developing online tools for patients and therapists to learn the 'Strengthening and Stretching for Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hand' (SARAH) programme.
SARAH is a proven and effective exercise-based therapy used alongside drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) of the hand. SARAH is currently delivered to patients face-to-face by specially trained therapists.