GPs could be stopping overweight men from getting slim by failing to recommend them to weight loss classes, new research suggests.
Doctors typically send women to weight loss classes, while telling men to go to the gym or to take up football.
Now experts have warned that doctors who act with this ‘gender bias’ when advising their patientscould be cutting men’s chances of shedding the pounds.
Men take up just one in ten NHS-funded places at weight loss classes such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World.
But this figurerose to four in ten after GPs were told to discuss weight loss classes with their patients, according to a new study.
GPs should recommend overweight men to ‘women’s’ weight loss classes, research suggests
Overweight men are 50 per cent more likely to die before they reach 70, a major studyfound last year.
A team of Cambridge and Oxford researchers has found that being too fat is far more harmful for men than women.
Their study of 3.6 million adults worldwide found that males who were overweight or obese had a 30 per cent chance of dying before the age of 70.
This compares to an average risk of 19 per cent for those with a healthy weight.
Overweight or obese women were 15 per cent more likely to die before they reach 70 compared to 11 per cent who were classified as healthy.
Researchers think that men are more affected by obesity than women and it causes major changes in their liver fat levels and insulin levels.
In the UK, 68 per cent of men are overweight or obese compared with 58 per cent of women, according to government statistics.
And in the US, 74 per cent of men are overweight or obese while 64 per cent of women are, according to the US National Institute of Diabetes.
Professor Paul Aveyard, from the University of Oxford, warned that GPs could be stopping men from losing weight by only offering them ‘blokey’ diet options.
He said GPs typically tell overweight men to visit the gym, go for a run or play football.
Professor Appleyard said: ‘It appears GPs and nurses show a gender bias when it comes to men and weight management.
‘GPs traditionally may have been more likely to encourage men to go to the gym, play football or take up running to boost their health – or they may have just offered them some simple dietary advice.
‘We need to move away from these gender stereotypes and recognise that weight loss support groups work for men just as well as for women.
‘Our study found that an NHS referral and a simple recommendation like ‘I think this could be good for you’ is enough to persuade many men to cast aside any reservations they might have and to give a weight management group a try.’
As part of a new study, doctors were told to spend around 30 seconds discussing weight loss options with overweight and obese patients of both sexes.
Half of the patients were offered weight loss classes without advice, while the other half were offered weight loss classes with guided advice.
They found men who were offered advice were more likely to attend a weight loss class.
Doctors typically send women to weight loss classes, while telling men to go to the gym
Martin Tod, from the Men’s Health Forum, said: ‘What this research shows is that it’s not just men who need to change their attitudes about their weight – health professionals do too.
‘Men who might benefit from weight management services are missing out because they’re not being told about them.
‘Yet when they are told about them, many men do use them and, despite what might be expected, many men really benefit from them.’
Paul Sharpe, from Slimming World, said: ‘We welcome the results of this study.
‘This is a particularly important issue because not only are men more likely to be overweight than women, they’re also less likely to talk about it and less likely to take action to manage their weight.
‘Once they set their mind to it though, men do seem to be good at slimming down.
‘There are now 60,000 men attending Slimming World and the vast majority of our groups now have a few men in them.
‘We are starting to see an improvement in gender balance in some referral schemes, but certainly more needs to be done.’