England’s most senior doctor has warned against trying quick-fix diets and high street remedies that are “too good to be true” as part of New Year resolutions.

NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, says it’s right to try to get in shape, but warned people to avoid turning to fads including diet pills, ‘tea-toxes’ and appetite suppressant products, which are at best ineffective and sometimes can be harmful.

The medic’s intervention follows calls earlier this year for social media firms to crack down on influential celebrities posting misleading ‘get fit quick’ adverts, prompting Instagram and Facebook to restrict endorsements of risky products.

Products claiming to help people lose weight quickly while reducing appetite and fatigue can in fact have damaging side effects including diarrhoea, heart problems and even lead to unplanned pregnancies by interfering with oral contraception.

With one in four young people saying their appearance is their top concern, Professor Powis has warned that easy availability of quick-fix products online and on the high street – including buy one get one free offers – could play on people’s body image anxiety.

He said: “It’s always a good time to try to get in shape, and new year’s resolutions are a great time to make a change, but the reality is there’s a slim chance of success with diet pills and detox teas – and people could end up doing more harm than good. Making new year goals and shifting a few excess pounds after Christmas can be a good idea but is much easier to maintain when done gradually and safely."

Diabetes Prevention Programme

He suggests using schemes like the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which has just achieved national rollout. Some 89,604 people have now finished the programme, losing a combined weight of 185,051kg.

The 9-12 month programme is designed to stop or delay the onset of the illness through a range of personalised lifestyle interventions, including:

  • Education on lifestyle choices
  • Advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating
  • Bespoke physical activity programmes

With expert advice on dieting, exercise and healthy lifestyle, the programme will double in size to treat around 200,000 people every year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. People can now also benefit from digital services, including wearable tech and online peer support groups, to help more people to benefit from the programme.

How to achieve healthy New Year goals

NHS England has published links to help people get started and achieve their New Year goals.