Welfare for the seriously overweight has ballooned by 70 per cent from £29million in 2012 to £40million last year, figures reveal.
Now the Work and Pensions Secretary has asked his department to “investigate the possibility” of introducing the liquids-only Cambridge Diet for almost 8,000 benefit claimants who are obese.
He has also written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt voicing his concern at the growing cost of British obesity.
The move comes after Mr Duncan Smith met his constituent Ruth Barber, a Cambridge Diet consultant, and Professor Anthony Leeds, Cambridge Weight Plan medical director.
At the meeting this month, they said the £45-a-week rapid weight loss plan has helped obese people return to work. Mr Duncan Smith subsequently wrote to Ms Barber confirming he was considering the Cambridge Diet.
In the letter, seen by the Sunday Express, the Work and Pensions Secretary wrote: “I have written to the Health Secretary to make him aware of the Cambridge Weight Plan. “I have also asked my department to investigate the possibility of introducing this as an option for those who are too obese too work.”
Earlier this year, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence advised that slimming clubs, such as WeightWatchers, should be made available free on the NHS.
Swedish research shows meal replacement therapies with as little as 500 calories a day can achieve weight loss of two-and-a-half stone, getting five out of six dieters back into work in under three months.
More than a quarter of British adults are obese and the number of diabetics has risen by a million in seven years. Last night Labour MP Rob Flello, chairman of an all-party group studying obesity, said: “It is good that the DWP is looking at ways to help the overweight and clinically obese.” Celebrity backers of the diet include Towie star Lauren Goodger, 27, and actress Jennifer Ellison, 31, who earlier this year lost two stone in two months by restricting her intake to only 800 calories a day.
Last night the DWP distanced itself from the claims in Mr Duncan Smith’s letter.
A source in his department said: “DWP is not looking into this.
"Iain raised it with Department of Health as a constituency MP.”