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Obesity studies are among six new departmental projects to be funded by the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford.

© World Obesity Federation
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.
- Professor Susan Jebb, University of Oxford.

Do meal replacements actually help people to lose weight in the long-term? Is weighing yourself everyday enough to prevent obesity? And could feedback on the nutritional content of your shopping basket help you to make healthier choices in the supermarket?

These are just some of the questions primary care researchers are asking, through six new projects in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences to receive funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CLAHRC Oxford, which will focus on obesity, hypertension and patient experience.

“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,” commented Professor Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health in Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. "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.”

The NIHR CLAHRC Oxford announces 12 new projects across the region today representing a £3.5 million investment, with £560,000 to set-up a new theme of research studies on behaviour change in diet and obesity - led by Professor Susan Jebb. These include:

Meal replacements for weight management

Led by Research Fellow Dr Nerys Astbury, researchers 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.

Supporting people to lose weight by self-weighing

Led by GP and Professor of Behavioural Medicine Dr Paul Aveyard, researchers 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.

A shopping intervention for cardiovascular disease prevention

Led by Research Fellow Dr Carmen Piernas, researchers 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.

Three further studies in the department are to focus on hypertension and patient experience:

Launched in 2014 as one of 13 CLAHRCs across England, the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford funds and supports collaborative research projects into developing creative new ways of providing and targeting health services across Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley region. It achieves this by bringing together universities, charities, local authorities and industry. Other studies funded by the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford 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 NIHR CLAHRC Oxford and Head of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. “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.”


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