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Commercial Weight Loss Shows Better Results Than Self Help

Contact: Tammy Gay

 

“Until now, commercial weight loss programs had not been evaluated for their efficacy. This study shows people who participate in a structured program will do better in maintaining their weight loss.”

-- James W. Anderson, M.D., professor of medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, UK College of Medicine

 

April 8, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- People who lose weight with the help of a commercial program are more likely to keep more pounds off than if they lose weight without help, according to a multi-center study conducted in part by the University of Kentucky to be published in the April 9 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Currently, two out of three people in the United States are overweight or obese,” said James W. Anderson, M.D., professor of medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, UK College of Medicine, who participated in the six-site clinical study.

“Until now, commercial weight loss programs had not been evaluated for their efficacy. This study shows people who participate in a structured program will do better in maintaining their weight loss.”

Over a two-year period, the study, led by Stanley Heshka, Ph.D., of the New York Obesity Research Center with Columbia University, compared 212 people in a self-help program with 211 in a commercial weight loss program, Weight Watchers International. Weight Watchers International funded the study.

Participants in the commercial program had access to food, activity and behavioral modification plans. Participants in the self-help program received two 20-minute nutritional counseling sessions and access to self-help resources during the study.

After 26 weeks, the people in the self-help program lost an average of 2 percent of their body weight or an average of 4.5 pounds, while those in the Weight Watchers International lost an average of 13 pounds or 6 percent of their body weight. After two years, the self-help group participants regained all the lost weight. The Weight Watchers group maintained 3 percent (7 pounds) of their weight loss; however, those participants who attended meetings more regularly retained 5 percent (11 pounds) of their weight loss.

“Maintaining a 5 percent weight loss may not seem very important, but it is,” Anderson said. “That 5 percent weight loss helps to prevent diabetes and reduces the risk of coronary artery disease by about 15 percent. It also shows that the people who are keeping the weight off are exercising more, and eating less fat and more fruits and vegetables. These lifestyle changes bring benefits that magnify the weight loss benefits.”


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