Weight Watchers comparable to clinical weight loss programs, study finds

A new study suggests weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers may be just as beneficial as clinical programs – likely because both use group-based approaches to achieve weight loss, according to U.S. News and World Report.

"Group-based weight-loss treatment produced weight loss, whether delivered by a professional or peer counselor," 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. "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.'"

Pinto and her colleagues assigned 141 overweight and obese people to one of three groups.  The first group was assigned to 48 weeks of behavioral weight-loss treatment from a health professional, the second participated in Weight Watchers for 48 weeks and the third received combined treatment – the first 12 weeks were spent with a health professional and the next 36 weeks in Weight Watchers.

Pinto chose Weight Watchers because it is the largest commercial program in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report.

After 48 weeks, participants in the Weight Watchers Group had lost the most weight – 13.2 pounds – while those in a professional program lost 11.9 pounds.  The combination group lost 7.9 pounds on average.

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    Furthermore, the participants in in the Weight Watchers group were more likely to lose 10 percent or more of their starting weight than the other groups. Losing 10 percent of body weight is widely considered as a bench mark for reducing disease risk.

    The study was published Tuesday in the journal Obesity.

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