Lifestyle & Belief

Weight Watchers just as effective as clinical weight loss programs, study suggests


Weight Watchers honors Jennifer Hudson's commitment to her healthy lifestyle with the opening of the Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers Center on September 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.


Barry Brecheisen

Weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers may be just as effective as clinical programs, a new study published in the journal Obesity suggests.

The reason may be that both use group-based approaches to achieve weight loss, study author Angela Pinto, assistant professor of psychology at Baruch College of the City University of New York, told U.S. News and World Report.

"Group-based weight-loss treatment produced weight loss, whether delivered by a professional or peer counselor. When people are in a group with others on the same journey, they feel there is that element of, 'OK, this worked for him or her, perhaps it will work for me. Perhaps I can give it a try.'"

Researchers assigned 141 overweight and obese people to one of three groups: The first was assigned to 48 weeks of behavioral weight-loss treatment from a health professional; the second participated in Weight Watchers for 48 weeks —  chosen because it is the largest commercial program in the US; and the third received combined treatment.

Participants in the Weight Watchers group had lost the most weight – 13.2 pounds – while those in a professional program lost 11.9 pounds and the combination group lost an average of 7.9 pounds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of American adults — 35.7 percent — are obese. An additional 33.3 percent are overweight.

Weight Watchers' success in helping people to lose weight saw Jennifer Hudson, who lost 80 pounds on its program, sign on as a spokesperson. 

Commercial weight loss programs are also cheaper than most professional intervention, CBS quoted Pinto as saying, costing about $10 a week compared to between $10 to $35 a week on a doctor's weight loss program.

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