A new study gets specific about how well one weight-loss program really works over the course of a year, comparing pounds lost by participants to those who got diet guidance from a doctor. The findings were significant -- dieters who followed the Weight Watchers program dropped double the pounds and were more likely to stick to the program than those who got monthly advice from a medical professional.
Researchers recruited 772 men from the UK, Germany, and Australia from doctor's check-up appointments. All of the participants fell in a body mass index range of 27 to 35 and showed at least one marker for obesity-related disease risk. In a random selection, half were given a complimentary 12-month membership to Weight Watchers and half were asked to visit their doctor for monthly appointments on weight loss.
The results were clearly in favor of Weight Watchers. Of these dieters, 61% stuck it out for a year and their average weight loss was 15 pounds.
About 54% of the doctor-guided dieters lasted the full twelve months, dropping an average of 7 pounds each. It's also interesting to note that even when the drop-outs' stats were added in, the results were the same. Weight Watchers participants, including those who did not finish out the year, averaged an 11-poound loss, while the others dropped an average of 5 pounds. The Weight Watchers group was more likely to lose 10% of their original body weight, and many surpassed that to a 15% loss, researchers said.
What made such a big difference for the Weight Watchers?
The researchers say that they were dedicated to the program itself and to attending meetings. The study's authors admit that they could not have predicted these dieters would be so committed -- tallying and average of three Weight Watchers meetings a month each -- or that they would lose so much more weight than the other participants.
Some reasons identified for this cohort's success are the comaraderie of meetings, the monetary value of the program, and getting guidance from people and a program with focused expertise in weight loss.
The results could not only be a boon for commercial diet programs, but may also be insightful for Americans who want to shed weight or are facing health risks due to obesity.
"The greater weight loss in participants assigned to the commercial program was accompanied by greater reductions in waist circumference and fat mass than in participants assigned to standard care, which would be expected to lead to a reduction in the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Susan Jebb, one of the study's authors from the UK-based council that conducted the research.
Jebb would like to see doctors partner with commercial programs like Weight Watchers that have proven to be cost-efficient, successful ways to get to and maintain a healthy weight. This could offer a "robust intervention" for the obesity epidemic, she said.
It's important to note that the study was funded by Weight Watchers and that the results echo findings from previous studies conducted by commercial programs. However, Jebb does stress their limited involvement in the execution and reporting, noting that their "research contract included a clause to allow us the right to publish the data regardless of the outcome."
Have commercial weight-loss programs worked better for you? Or would you trust your doctor more than a diet business for sound diet advice?
Has going it alone ever led to significant weight loss for you?
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