Association of Pharmacy
Technicians UK (APTUK)
The Professional Leadership Body for Pharmacy Technicians

Weight watch

As a New Year’s resolution, losing weight is a firm favourite. Help customers stick to their guns this year with this round-up of weight management options you can recommend in store

Whether they’re looking to shed a few extra pounds gained over the Christmas and New Year holidays or are determined to kick start a long-term lifestyle change, people often choose January as the time when they decide to lose weight.

However, setting out to lose weight and actually losing it are two different things, and customers may need a bit of support and encouragement to achieve their goals. The good news is that you should be able to provide both of these by finding out about the weight management products and services that are available and passing on your knowledge.

The importance of calories

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the average woman needs to consume about 2,000 calories a day, while the average man needs about 2,500. Calories are crucial when it comes to weight management because the body uses them for fuel (energy) and if a person regularly eats more calories than they need, they won’t use this fuel. It will simply be stored as fat, and the person will gain weight. Many weight loss products therefore focus on limiting the number of calories consumed each day.

Meal replacement products

Meal replacement products contain between 200 and 400 calories per serving. They come in a variety of formats, from snack bars and noodles to powders that are made up into drinks or soups. They are usually high in protein and other nutrients and can be eaten instead of one or two main meals a day, according to pack instructions. 

They are not intended to be a total replacement for other meals, however, and customers must ensure that they obtain a good balance of other nutritious foods each day. Reputable brands come with instructions for safe and healthy use.

Fat binders

Fat binders (or fat blockers) are designed to bind to the fat in food, helping it to pass through the body. They therefore eliminate the calories associated with fatty foods such as sausages, butter and cheese.

Carb or starch blockers

Working in a similar way to fat blockers, carb or starch blockers stop us absorbing starches so that they pass through the body undigested. They can be a useful way of losing the calories associated with starch, which is found in high amounts in foods like bread and pasta.

Weight loss supplements

There is evidence to suggest that certain substances can help people lose weight when taken in supplement form. Of particular interest at the moment are:

  • Glucomannan. This is the only ingredient to have an EU-approved health claim for weight loss. Glucomannan is a dietary fibre extracted from the roots of the elephant yam. It swells on contact with water, so it can help to curb the appetite. It also acts as a bulk forming laxative 
  • Sea kelp. Kelp is a type of seaweed that may also help to increase feelings of fullness. Kelp is sometimes referred to as kombu, its Japanese name 
  • Garcinia cambogia (HCA). Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that may also help to suppress the appetite. It is high in hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is said to promote feelings of fullness and to help prevent sugars and starches from turning into fat
  • Green tea. Green tea has long been popular for its antioxidant benefits, but research now suggests that it may be able to boost metabolism too, which means calories are used up faster. It may also contribute to the breakdown of fat within the body. 

Support groups and services

If your pharmacy offers a weight management service, now is the ideal time to advertise it. You can do this cheaply by utilising your window to make an attractive display and by printing posters and flyers for use inside the shop. You can also signpost customers to local support groups like Weight Watchers and Slimming World, which offer a supportive environment and healthy eating and exercise plans. Find clubs in your area via NHS Choices.

Important advice

  • Many weight loss products, including meal replacements, are not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, or for children under 16 years of age. If in doubt, always check with the pharmacist
  • Weight management products are designed to be used alongside a healthy, balanced diet and customers should always read and follow pack instructions before they start to use them
  • For best results, customers should increase their exercise levels as this will help them to burn calories and improve their muscle tone, which leads to an overall better body shape. Downloadable factsheets outlining the Government’s recommended activity levels for people of all ages, from toddlers to the over-65s can be passed onto customers.

Fat contains more than double the number of calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins

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