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The 30-second chat that can trigger weight loss

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Doctors who spend 30 seconds telling patients they need to lose weight can have a dramatic impact, a study shows.

Some people, who had no intention of shedding the pounds, lost 10% of their body weight after being offered a free weight-loss programme.

The University of Oxford researchers said the 30-second chat would have a huge effect if every GP did it.

The findings, published in the Lancet, showed that patients were not offended by the advice.

“More than any other person, your doctor can bring up the question of weight, it is not like telling your wife she’s overweight,” said Paul Cooper who took part in the trial.

He was going for a normal appointment in Northampton, when his GP told him that weighing in at 98kg (15st 6lb) was unhealthy.

“Looking down, I couldn’t see my feet,” the 69-year-old said.

‘While you’re here….’

Paul was one of 2,728 severely overweight people who were involved in the trial.

All were seeing their doctor for another health condition when the GP said something like: “While you’re here, I just want to talk about your weight.”

Half were offered a free place on a weight-loss programme like Slimming World or Rosemary Conley.

Only four in 10 actually turned up, but nonetheless a quarter of patients initially offered a place lost 5% of their original weight and around one-tenth had lost 10% of their weight after a year.

Overall, their weight loss averaged 2.4kg (5.3lb).

The other half were told they could do with losing weight, but were given no more support. They lost 1kg (2.2lb) after 12 months.

Prof Paul Aveyard, from the University of Oxford, told the BBC News website: “The impact is pretty substantial given the effort – 30 seconds – that went into it.

“If we were year-on-year to knock 2.4kg off the heaviest people in society then that would have a very big effect in health terms.”

Prof Aveyard, who is also a GP, said: “This should be added into the repertoire of things we all attend to in appointments like flu jabs, blood pressure and stopping smoking.”

Paul Cooper says he “went on to a pretty strict diet” and now weighs in at 84kg (13st 3lb).

Paul Cooper

“It wasn’t until I lost the weight that I realised you didn’t have to feel like that [in your late 60s], I can still do a 15-mile walk in the Peak District or play cricket in the summer.”

His advice to people trying to lose weight is: “You don’t have to become a party pooper.

“Have a small piece of birthday cake, eat it very slowly and don’t have a second one.

“Before, I might have had half a dozen chocolates in front of the TV, really take your time and tell yourself it’s a real treat and make it last.”

Dr Imran Rafi, from the Royal College of GPs, said: “Levels of obesity are a growing concern in the UK and can lead to a number of debilitating and serious conditions.

“If this scheme is low-cost and effective, which this research claims it is, it makes sense to consider it on a wider scale.

“We must understand that while some patients in this study did benefit from a referral to a weight-loss programme, it won’t work for everyone and shouldn’t be considered as a blanket solution to curb growing levels of obesity.”

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24 Hours Across Africa

Tanzania: officials summons WHO over Ebola claims

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Tanzania’s government has summoned the World Health Organisation’s local representative over claims that they’re concealing information on Ebola virus infections in the country.

On Saturday, WHO said in a statement that it had learned of one suspected fatal case in the main city, Dar es Salaam, and two other infections but, despite repeated requests, was given no information.

Last week, Tanzania said it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said on Twitter that the ministry of foreign affairs had summoned the WHO’s Tigest Ketsela Mengestu to obtain “in-depth details from the agency on reports circulating in the media”.

A short video clip has also been posted on the ministry’s Twitter account, showing Dr Tigest clarifying at a meeting with Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Damas Ndumbaro that the WHO did not say there was Ebola in Tanzania:

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ForeignTanzania@foreigntanzania

WHO rejects claims to issue a statement on existence of Ebola in Tanzania.

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More than 2,100 people have died during the current Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

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WHO accused Tanzania of hiding information on Ebola victims

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Ebola virus has cause major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in Africa.

The number of cases has began to decline gradually, following the commitment of substantial international resources.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has rebuked Tanzania for failing to provide information about possible Ebola virus infections.

The WHO said it had learned of one suspected fatal case in Dar es Salaam and two others but, despite repeated requests, was given no information

Tanzania has said it has no suspected or confirmed cases.

The latest outbreak has killed more than 2,000 in eastern DR Congo, with Uganda battling to stop any spread.

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