Members of Weight Watchers groups lose three times as much as those who diet alone, study reveals
U.S study showed that group-based weight loss is the most effectiveThe clinical trials found that group-based treatment led by peer counselors is just as effective as that led by health
professionalsFindings could mean weight loss treatment becomes more available for thousands of AmericansResults also showed that
better meeting attendance was associated with greater weight losses
during the first 24 weeks in all treatment
15:10 GMT, 9 October 2012
Losing weight can be an uphill battle for many and so dieters often choose to join slimming groups such as Weight Watchers that offer support in shifting those unwanted pounds.
And now a university study has found that the group support received at slimming groups is three times more effective than trying to diet alone, and – crucially – just as effective as groups supervised by medical professionals.
Expensive professionally-delivered group weight loss treatment was previously considered the gold standard for treating obesity in America, but these findings could open up effective and affordable weight loss options to many more people.
Those following a WeightWatchers diet plan lost three times as much weight as those seeking medical advice
The National Institute of Health-funded study found that overweight and obese adults who participated in three different weight loss treatments, all involving counselling delivered in groups, lost significant weight after 48 weeks whether the treatment was led by a health professional or by someone who had previous weight loss success.
The clinical trial conducted at Baruch College in the City University of New York and published in Obesity is the first to compare professionally delivered group-based behavioural weight loss treatment to Weight Watchers, which is led by trained peer counselors who have achieved their own successful weight loss.
Weight Watchers was chosen because it is
the largest commercial slimming programme in the United States and is
behaviourally oriented, focusing on changing eating habits and doing
more exercise to lose weight.
In this study, led by Angela Marinilli Pinto, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Baruch College, 141 overweight and obese men and women were randomly assigned to:
48 weeks of behavioural weight loss treatment delivered by a health professional 48 weeks of Weight Watchers, where group support is led by Weight Watchers members who have successfully achieved and maintained a healthy goal weight,
A combined treatment consisting of 12 weeks of behavioural weight loss treatment delivered by a health professional followed by 36 weeks of Weight Watchers.
Those participating in the study who used WeightWatchers lost the most weight
The investigators assumed that the combined treatment would produce better weight losses than Weight Watchers alone, but contrary to expectations, Weight Watchers participants had lost more weight at the end of treatment.
In fact, more than one third of the Weight Watchers participants lost 10 per cent or more of their starting weight compared to 15 per cent of participants in the combined group and 11 per cent in the professionally led group.
Results of the study also showed that better meeting attendance was associated with greater weight losses during the first 24 weeks in all treatments.
In the Weight Watchers group, this relationship was maintained even in the second half of treatment, suggesting that individuals who continue to stay involved in the Weight Watchers program do better.
'This study is important because, with almost 70 per cent of American adults classified as overweight or obese, there is a need to provide practical treatment solutions that are effective, accessible, and affordable,' Dr. Pinto explained.
'Results of this study demonstrate that the Weight Watchers program can produce clinically meaningful weight losses.'
The cost of joining Weight Watchers is approximately $10 (6.25) per week in America, which includes member registration, weekly meetings, and access to online resources.
A spokesman for Weight Watchers said: 'Weight Watchers provides state of the art weight management services that are as good as the standard behaviour therapy delivered by healthcare professionals.
'And Weight Watchers costs less, is fully scalable and is usually more convenient to participate in.'