More loss from Weight Watchers equals a health gain

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A recent UK study has compared the results of following standard weight loss guidelines to those achieved by the commercial weight loss program Weight Watchers and found that people were much more likely to drop kilos or pounds, in our country in the latter program. In fact, participants in the study lost twice as much weight on the commercial program, reports the UK Medical Research Council in The Lancet.

In order to investigate the effectiveness of weight loss initiatives in both primary care and community settings, the researchers randomly assigned over 770 overweight and obese adults in Australia, Germany, and the UK to receive either 12 months of standard care offered by a primary care team, or a free 12-month membership for a Weight Watchers group in their area. While a large percentage of all participants dropped out of both programs, the 61 percent of those who completed the Weight Watchers program lost an average of about 15 pounds, compared to the average of 7 pounds lost by the 54 percent who completed the standard care program. Also significant, those in the commercial program experienced greater reduction in waist circumference and fat mass, as well as improved lipid levels (HDL and LDL cholesterol) all of which make a difference when it comes to reducing the risk of diabetes and other adverse effects of obesity.

The investigators concluded that the combination of advice about diet and exercise, regular weigh-ins, motivation, and group support provided by the Weight Watchers program appears to be a useful model for early intervention in the lives of overweight and obese patients. They acknowledge, however, that more research is required to assess long-term weight loss maintenance and cost-effectiveness especially since almost 90% of the study participants were female.

A study like this shows the importance of an organized group setting in motivating people to stay on a weight loss program, says ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. I think there should be more behavioral resources for weight loss and weight control.