MEND offers help to overweight children

A novel programme to help obese children lose weight could be a useful referral tool for GPs.

Data from the ‘Mind, Education, Nutrition, Do It!’ (MEND) project suggests the nine-week course can help children to maintain weight loss for at least a year.

Findings from a controlled trial of 107 children in the UK aged 7–13 years were presented to delegates at the European Congress of Obesity in Hungary this week.

Among children assigned to the nine-week programme, BMI decreased from an average of 27.1 to 25.7, an improvement that was maintained at 12 months. Over the same time, BMI in the control group went from 27.3 to 27.7.

Similar improvements were seen for waist circumference and physical activity levels for children assigned to MEND.

Research director at MEND Paul Sacher said GPs should refer children aged 7–13 who are overweight or obese to MEND if the service is available in their area.

The MEND programme is a possible way of implementing NICE guidelines on child obesity, he said. There are currently 43 centres in England, with up to 300 to open by the end of the year.

But Nottingham GP Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said that research into MEND needs to be peer reviewed and independently replicated by people other than the research team.

‘It would certainly be premature to adopt it as the primary treatment for obesity,’ he said.
Dr Peter Stott, a GP in Surrey and a founder member of the National Obesity Forum, said GPs would welcome a programme like MEND.

‘Obesity in children is a difficult thing to manage, it’s a family problem and can’t be managed in the GP practice,’ he said.

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