Weight management

Weight management

Prevalence of overweight and obesity

In the UK, 68% of men and 58% of women are overweight or obese. Children’s overweight and obesity rates are also on the increase: 22.6% of primary school children aged 4-5 and over a third (34.2%) of 10-11 year olds are overweight or obese. For children, the prevalence is higher in ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic groups. Childhood prevalence is double in the most deprived compared to the most affluent areas. 

The trend in obesity is especially of concern in children and adolescents. Over 60% of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight in early adulthood. Obesity is a health risk in its own right, but it is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Obesity also increases costs for society: in the UK £27 billion (NHS related and impact on the economy); this is more than the UK spends on the police, fire service and judicial system combined. 

Plant-based eating and weight management

Plant-based foods usually have a lower energy density, are typically low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat and fibre. These components can be associated with lower body weight and less weight gain over time.

The evidence from observational studies indicates that those who follow plant-based eating and eat more protein as plant proteins, tend to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI – weight (kg)/height (m)2) and gain less weight over time.

  • The European EPIC cohort of 373,803 individuals (103,455 men and 270,348 women) found that individuals with a high adherence to the Mediterranean (more plant-based diet) had a modest weight loss (-0.16kg) over 5 years and were 10% less likely to become overweight or develop obesity compared to individuals with a low adherence to the diet. 
  • High adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was also associated with a lower change in waist circumference and BMI in a group of 11,048 subjects.
  • The Seventh-day Adventist Study-2, contains data from 22,434 men and 38,469 women, approximately half of whom are omnivores and half vegetarians. Participants were grouped as vegan (2731), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (20,408), pesco-vegetarian (5617), semi-vegetarian (3386) or non-vegetarian (28,761). As people progress from, a vegan diet to a mixed diet there is a gradual increase in BMI. 

BMI according to vegetarian status in the Adventist Health Study (22,434 men and 38,469 women)

Eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds and reducing the amount of energy-rich foods will contribute to weight management.


 PHE. Health matters: obesity and the food environment [Internet]. 2017 [cited 7/20/2018]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-obesity-and-the-food-environment/health-matters-obesity-and-the-food-environment--2

 Romaguera D, Norat T, Vergnaud AC et al. Mediterranean dietary patterns and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA project. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:912-21.

 Roswall N, Angquist L, Ahluwalia TS et al. Association between Mediterranean and Nordic diet scores and changes in weight and waist circumference: influence of FTO and TCF7L2 loci. Am J Clin Nutr 2014;100:1188-97.

 Sabate J, Wien M. Vegetarian diets and childhood obesity prevention. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1525S-9S 

 WHO. European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020. Regional Committee for Europe, 64th SESSION, Copenhagen, Denmark, 15-18 September 2014. 2014.
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