Middle-aged women should have free access to weight loss therapy, female health activists have said.

The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) believes that obesity rates among women between the age of 40 and 60 years old will drop if they are given weight loss counselling.

According to the state-funded group, middle-aged women are often at risk of being obese, with research showing that they gain around 1.5lbs a year.

They have said that weight loss therapy will help middle-aged females make healthier food choices and motivate them to better manage their weight.

Approximately 43% percent of middle-aged women are classified as obese or overweight, prior studies have reported.

The WPSI have said that the menopause can trigger weight gain amongst middle-aged women, putting them at risk of becoming obese.

In addition, the aging process can slow down a person’s metabolism – making it harder for them to maintain a healthy weight.

Individuals with obesity are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However leading academic Dr Kate White has discredited the new advice and has labelled it as ‘insensitive’.

She said: “To come in and say that you should add losing weight on top of [difficult circumstances] is, wilfully or not, blind to how people live and how difficult it is to lose weight and keep it off.

“You can’t minimise the risk that bringing up weight with all patients is going to feed further into weight stigma, which evidence has shown has real consequences for people’s health. It is also waving aside the things that matter the most on why weight gain happens.”

According to Dr White, obesity is caused by the easy accessibility to unhealthy foods, limited opportunities to exercise and living in deprived neighbourhoods.

The WPSI said: “We recommend counselling midlife women aged 40 to 60 years with a normal or overweight BMI to maintain weight or limit weight gain to prevent obesity and its associated health conditions. Counselling may include individualised discussion of healthy eating and physical activity.”

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