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Weight Watchers 'twice as good' as standard care

Adults referred to the commercial weight loss programme Weight Watchers lose around twice as much weight as people receiving standard care over 12 months, according to a Medical Research Council study.

Researchers assessed 772 overweight and obese adults from the UK, Australia and Germany.

The patients were assigned to either receive 12 months of standard care – as usually offered by a primary care team – or were given free membership to a local Weight Watchers group for a year. After 12 months, the mean weight change was -5.1 kg for those in the commercial programme versus -2∙2 kg for those receiving standard care.

Writing in The Lancet online, the authors said: “The similar weight losses achieved in Australia, Germany, and the UK implies that this commercial programme, in partnership with primary care providers, is a robust intervention that is generalisable to other economically developed countries.”

They add: “The greater weight loss in participants assigned to the commercial programme 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… This kind of research is important so that we can identify clinically effective interventions to treat obesity.

“Data from our study suggest that referral by a primary health-care professional to a commercial weight loss programme that provides regular weighing, advice about diet and physical activity, motivation, and group support can offer a clinically useful early intervention for weight management in overweight and obese people that can be delivered at large scale,” they said.

“Further research is needed to examine long-term weight loss maintenance, together with a formal analysis of cost-effectiveness.”


Reference: Primary care referral to a commercial provider for weight loss treatment versus standard care: a randomised controlled trial

Readers' comments (8)

  • Please don't tell me professionals think weight watchers is the way to go over actual professional nutritional advice?

    Weightwatchers as a buisness model is great, and perhaps the NHS can adopt some of the methods it uses, but the messages that weightwatchers give out is a joke. I have known many women use this, and the 'knowledge' they think they have about healthy nutrition and dieting truly is shocking.

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  • We are not right all of the time and need to learn from others, gracefully.

    mike | 9-Sep-2011 4:03 pm
    Is it only available to women?

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  • After one year of weekly meetings, weigh-ins and support, they lost a grand total of 11 pounds? Who can pay $50 a month to lose a pound? Frankly – it’s just not that impressive. Other programs like Take Shape for Life have done much better in studies, such as this one at Johns Hopkins.

    If people are serious about losing weight, they need to find a program they can live with long term, not feel deprived and have more significant results. Thanks!
    Renee Mclaughlin

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  • Anonymous | 9-Sep-2011 11:53 pm no of course it isn't, but I have personally only known women who have used it, hence my example 'I have known many women...'

    Renee, respectfully, it is not about 'finding a programme' at all, it is about knowing and UNDERSTANDING the correct nutritional information, and then implementing it. You do not need an expensive programme for that.

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  • As nurses, we send people home from hospital or out of ghe clinic telling them they must eat a healthy diet. However, do we take any time to find out if they truly understand what that is or how to achieve it? A referral to a dietician can take months and private nutrition advice can be very expensive. Surely if someone, a patient or a nurse, feels empowered by joining a weight loss group, that is a good thing? While I personally am not a fan of these groups, I know many people who find the advice and moral support to be a great help.
    Perhaps the NHS should team up with education authorities and teach people how to shop for and prepare healthy food. If we continue to eat rubbish, then our health will be rubbish. Aftewr all, you are what you eat!

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  • Why are we so scared of other agencies having knowledge that probably works. Most of the people I hear of subscribing to 'weight watchers' are nurses or AHPs.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Sep-2011 0:40 am if these 'other agencies' have knowledge that works, I would be all for them. The fact is, predominantly these agencies are full of crap. The messages they peddle are wrong and misleading at best, and they are there to simply make money.

    For example, I saw an ad in my local gym for a class that advertised itself as 'NOT a slimming club'. It offered a series of classes with real nutritional advice on how to lose weight and eat healthy, to understand food and nutrition. I thought great, finally! Someone is getting the message out there! I went, just out of curiosity to see how it would go, as quite a few people (all women I might add apart from me) went. The woman who took it was not a Nurse, or a Nutritionist, or even a AHP, she was a rep. There was no real nutritional advice, just a series of plugs for expensive supplements, and the 'advice' she was giving people was absolutely clinically wrong. (And yes, I did pull her up on it in front of everyone).

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  • From The Telegraph
    "Diets work better with WeightWatchers than the NHS: research
    NHS weight loss programmes are more expensive and less effective than WeightWatchers, a study has found."

    By Rebecca Smith7:00AM GMT 04 Nov 2011

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