The UK has some of the highest rates of obesity in the world and ever since Boris Johnson’s brush with Covid-19 there has been a flurry of initiatives to tackle the problem.

This includes the recently announced plan that overweight people will receive clothing vouchers and free rides at theme parks if they meet certain health goals. 

But how many of these efforts will make a significant difference? Too few, I fear.

Take, for instance, the NHS Weight Loss Plan. It can be downloaded free of charge as an App on your smartphone. 

It’s very easy to use and has clearly been developed with a lot of money. Is it effective in helping people lose weight? 

We have known for a long time that low-fat diets are not a good way to lose weight or improve health

Since long, we know that low-fat diets do not work well for improving health or weight loss.

If you want to lose a decent amount of weight then it is becoming increasingly clear that going on a standard slow-and- steady, low-fat high-carb diet is unlikely to result in success

It is becoming more clear that if you want to lose weight, a slow-and-steady low-fat, high-carb diet will not work.

The answer, according to a recent study by the University of Oxford, is a resounding ‘no’.

For the study, the scientists recruited 512 patients with an average body mass index (BMI) of 35 — putting them into the ‘obese’ category — and randomly allocated them to one of three weight-loss programmes: the NHS Weight Loss Plan, Slimming World Online (which offers standard calorie-control advice) and Rosemary Online (which no longer exists). 

A control group was also present, which was asked to continue as normal.

Participants were required to adhere to the programme for eight weeks and then report back on how much weight lost.

The results were disappointing. The NHS plan resulted in a loss of 3 lb (1.3kg) per person, which was similar to the control group. Slimming World members lost 3.7lb (1.7kg), and Rosemary Online users lost 5lb (2.3kg).

A sking patients to do these programmes was, the researchers concluded, at best ‘only marginally superior to no intervention’.

So why were the changes so small. I downloaded the NHS app, and took a look. 

Although there is a lot of good advice and I love the free exercise programs, I was disappointed to find that many of their recipes were high in fat and high carbs. 

For weight loss, it recommends skimmed milk or zero-fat yogurt.

However, we know for a long period that low-fat diets don’t work well for weight loss or improving health. 

Predimed was a study in which 7,447 overweight Spanish people were randomly assigned to either a low fat or Mediterranean diet. This meant that they received 40% of their calories as fat, mainly from oily fish, nuts and olive oil.

The trial was scheduled to last six years, but was stopped before it was completed. People on the Mediterranean diet, which has a higher fat content, were experiencing 30% fewer heart attacks and 50% lower chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other studies have also shown that low-fat diets are not effective. 

The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial, which began in 1993, involved 48,000 American women randomly allocated to either a low-fat diet or to continue their usual eating habits. 

People who were asked to reduce their fat intake received extensive support and counselling. They were able to reduce their fat intake by a lot.

After eight years of trial, the trial was ended. The low-fat group was no healthier than the controls in terms of weight loss, heart disease, or cancer.

For dairy, there is mounting evidence that full-fat milk is better for you. 

In a study published last month, researchers in Sweden assessed the impact of eating full‑fat dairy on more than 4,500 middle-aged volunteers.

The volunteers were tested for two fatty acids to accurately determine how much they were consuming. These are called trans-palmitoleic and heptadecanoic acids. They are almost exclusively found in dairy fats. 

The volunteers were then monitored for 16 years.

It turned out, the highest rate of strokes and heart attacks among full-fat dairy customers was found to be the largest consumers. 

Other studies have shown that people who eat full-fat dairy usually put on less weight and have lower rates of obesity than those who don’t

Other studies have shown that people who eat full-fat dairy usually put on less weight and have lower rates of obesity than those who don’t

The NHS Weight Loss Plan, which you can download free as an app on your phone, is slick and a lot of money has clearly been spent on developing it

The NHS Weight Loss Plan is an excellent app that you can download for free on your phone. It’s well-designed and clearly has been developed with a lot of money.

The researchers emphasize that this was not a fluke, as their findings are comparable to other studies, which included more than 42,000 people from countries such as the U.S.A. and UK.

Regarding weight, other studies have shown that people who eat full-fat dairy usually put on less weight and have lower rates of obesity than those who don’t — probably because fat is more satiating than carbs. 

Although, sadly, that doesn’t give you licence to eat huge amounts of cheese.

However, if you’re looking to lose some weight, say half a st, it is increasingly clear that a slow-and-steady, low-fat, high-carb diet will not work.

Research by the Oxford group, who carried out the study I described earlier, where they asked patients to try an 800-1,000 calorie low-carb approach, resulted in an average weight loss at eight weeks of 9.5 kg (1 st 7 lb) and big improvements in blood sugar levels — changes that were far greater than in a control group offered standard NHS healthy-eating advice.

I know what I would do.

One interesting thing about growing older, especially if you’re male, is that your eyebrows become thicker and your hair becomes thinner. Women’s eyebrows tends to get thinner.

Someone wrote to me recently, commenting that my eyebrows have thinned and worrying that I have low thyroid levels — which I don’t.

What is the problem? In men, it’s to do with the hormone testosterone. 

As we age, the cells that make hair on the eyebrows, inside noses, and ears become more sensitive than testosterone. This causes those hairs to grow faster and thicker while the hair cells on the head start to shrink.

The result is typically a balding scalp, tufty ears, and lots of nose hair.

In women, oestrogen plays a key role — and as levels drop after the menopause, so does hair growth.

None of these explanations explain why I have thin eyebrows and lots more hair. But I’m not complaining.

How long until humans have kidneys from pigs? 

How would you react to a pig’s heart or kidney transplant? That possibility came a step closer recently when NYU Langone Health in New York announced that a pig’s kidney, attached to a human patient, was able to generate and filter waste without being rejected.

This operation was very unusual: the patient was brain-dead and the pig ‘donor’ had been genetically modified to make its body parts more compatible with ours.

Since a pig heart has a similar size, weight, and structure to a human heart, we have been replacing failing heart valves in humans with pig valves for the past 30+ years. 

The dream was to make pigs a source for major organs, such as a heart and a kidney.

How would you feel about having a heart or kidney transplant from a pig?

How would you feel about a pig receiving a kidney or heart transplant?

This is due to the urgent need for more organs. More than 6,100 people in the UK are currently waiting for organ transplants, with 4,584 awaiting a kidney. 

The shortage is so severe, I once saw a father give both his healthy kidneys to two of his sons (whose kidneys were both failing), leaving him with dialysis.

Apart from animal welfare concerns, organ rejection is the main problem. Your immune system will recognize a pig kidney and attack it.

Anti-rejection drugs alone will not suffice for pigs, which are so different than us. New York scientists genetically modified the kidney of the pig to make it less susceptible to being attacked by our immune systems.

According to the surgeon, it will take a year or so before they can try this on a patient who is still alive. It will also take a while before pig organs become more widely available. 

In the meantime, you can help by telling your family you’d like to be a donor, and recording your decision online on the NHS Organ Donor Register.