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Danish-UK research collaboration aims to develop effective obesity management programmes

Leading researchers from Denmark and the United Kingdom will develop and test new obesity management programmes. The goal is to improve health and quality of life through solutions that can contribute to lasting changes, including long-term weight loss. The Novo Nordisk Foundation is backing the project with a grant of DKK 180 million (€24.2 million).

The prevalence of obesity has increased worldwide in the past 50 years. Due to the physical and mental health complications associated with obesity, many countries are looking to implement effective strategies to prevent and manage obesity. Current options are limited and more knowledge and evidence is needed to enable people to access the solutions most appropriate for them.

A group of leading researchers from Denmark and the United Kingdom want to make a step-change in the way that obesity is managed. In the Lighthouse Consortium on Obesity Management (LightCOM) research project, they will develop, implement and evaluate new obesity management programmes that will be offered in both primary and secondary care. The programmes, which will be tested in both Denmark and the United Kingdom, aim to improve health and quality of life through solutions that can contribute to lasting changes, including long-term weight loss.

“The LightCOM project gives us a unique opportunity which, with financial support from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, can help ensure a strong scientific foundation for obesity management in the future. A cornerstone of the project is the involvement of municipalities and local health boards, general practitioners and hospitals, which means that the management programmes can be tested across the healthcare system in both Denmark and the United Kingdom. I also see exciting opportunities in the link to the initiative Lighthouse Life Science – Healthy Weight in the Capital Region of Denmark. This link can be a way forward for us to include innovative health technology solutions,” says Carsten Dirksen, Chief Physician, Department of Endocrinology, Amager and Hvidovre Hospital, who will be leading the research project.

The other partners in the project in Denmark are the University of Copenhagen, the University of Southern Denmark and several municipalities within the Capital Region of Denmark.

In the United Kingdom the research will be led by the University of Oxford.

“The LightCOM studies will test whether we can implement systems to offer more effective weight management programmes for people with severe and complex obesity. Along with the clinical studies, the project gives us an opportunity to test whether these treatments are a cost-effective alternative to existing National Health Service (NHS) programmes in primary care,” says Professor Susan Jebb, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford.

Investigating intensive weight-loss and weight-neutral interventions
The LightCOM project comprises development and testing of two independent programmes: an intensive weight-loss programme and a weight-neutral programme.

The intensive weight-loss programme is intended to ensure extensive and sustained weight loss as well as improved physical and mental health. This programme will undergo randomised controlled clinical trials in both Denmark and the United Kingdom. The weight-neutral programme will not aim to reduce the weight of the people who participate. Instead, the programme will focus on improving people’s health-related quality of life by focusing on body acceptance, eating patterns and physical activity. This programme will take place as a pilot study in Denmark only.

Both programmes will make use of dietary strategies as well as innovative digital and health technology solutions to support lasting change. In parallel with the clinical research, health economic analysis to examine the cost–effectiveness will be included. In addition, the researchers will study how to optimise the implementation of these programmes if they prove to be effective. This will enable the solutions to be rapidly rolled out within the healthcare systems in Denmark and the United Kingdom.

“Our expectation is that the LightCOM project will contribute solid, research-based evidence that is scalable and can be applied quickly if the results prove successful. The project is also a fantastic opportunity to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing between Denmark and the United Kingdom in an area that is experiencing increasing health-related and political attention in both countries,” says Arne Astrup, Professor, DMSc, Senior Vice President, Obesity and Nutrition Science at the Novo Nordisk Foundation, which is supporting the project with a grant of DKK 180 million (€24.2 million) over 5.5 years.

Additional information on the LightCOM project
The LightCOM project originates from Lighthouse Life Science – Healthy Weight, an initiative in which many public and private actors in the Capital Region of Denmark have joined forces to develop new healthcare solutions in life science and welfare technology that can prevent, detect and manage obesity.

The aim of Lighthouse Life Science is to create better and greater health equality, focusing on developing solutions that are cost-effective, scalable and implementable. The LightCOM interventions have been developed with the same focus in mind and will also involve innovative health technology solutions from small biotech companies.

About the intensive weight-loss and weight-neutral programmes
The intensive weight-loss programme offers an individualised combination of meal replacement, physical activity, behavioural support and possibly pharmacological treatment. This combination is intended to achieve sustained weight loss of at least 20% and improved physical and mental health. This programme will be tested in three randomised controlled trials in both Denmark and the United Kingdom, compared with the existing programmes in both primary and secondary care settings.

Unlike the intensive weight-loss programme, the weight-neutral programme will not aim to reduce the weight of the people who participate. Instead, the programme will focus on improving people’s health-related quality of life by focusing on body acceptance, eating patterns and physical activity. This programme integrates elements from general practice in Denmark that have not been tested in randomised controlled trials. The weight-neutral programme will take place as a pilot study in Denmark only.

Further information

Press-related enquiries:
Sabina Askholm Larsen, Communications Partner, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, +45 2367 3226, sla@novo.dk

Enquiries related to the project:
Carsten Dirksen, Chief Physician, Department of Endocrinology, Amager and Hvidovre Hospital, carsten.dirksen@regionh.dk

Enquiries related to the UK may be directed to:
Susan Jebb, Professor of diet and population Health, University of Oxford, susan.jebb@phc.ox.ac.uk, or
Professor Paul Aveyard, GP and Professor of behavioural medicine, paul.aveyard@phc.ox.ac.uk