A study conducted by an obesity and food research centre in Hull has found that a provision of pre-packaged set meals can help people lose more weight compared to self-directed dieting.
HONEI (Humber Obesity Nutrition Education and Innovation), part of the Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull, undertook the first controlled trial in the UK comparing strict meal provisions to self-dieting.
The study found that nearly three times as many people lost significant weight when they ate specific meal provisions for 12 weeks compared to those who simply followed dieting guidelines.
25% of UK adults are obese and obesity is a major public health concern, with the associated health problems including greater risk of type II diabetes, heart disease and strokes.
Weight loss of 5-10% of initial body weight has been shown to result in a significant reduction in morbidity and mortality, and a reduced risk of heart disease.
HONEI conducted two related studies with 86 participants from the Hull area.
Professor Stephen Atkin, HONEI project leader, said: “These studies show that there is an alternative way of dieting which can achieve a healthy amount of weight loss. People wanting to lose weight can put themselves under considerable pressure to plan, organise and cook their meals. By providing them with their set portion-sized meals, it removes a lot of these additional pressures.
“An all meal provision approach to dieting has a benefit for people wanting to lose 5% body weight in a relatively short period of time. Undertaking a structured weight loss programme with support from professionals, rather than going it alone, can make a significant impact on losing and maintaining weight loss.”
The initial study split the participants into two groups. One group was provided with a set of vacuum packed Diet Chef meals whilst the other half followed a diet booklet and had to source their own food.
The study found that after 12 weeks, 61% of people who had been eating the meal provisions had lost 5% or more of their body weight compared to 22% on a self-directed diet.
Following the initial study, participants were monitored for a further 12 weeks and given the option to change from meal provisions to self-dieting or vice versa.
After 24 weeks 67% of participants on the meal provision study had lost at least 10% of their body weight.