Commercial weight-loss gets best results: study

Commercial weight-loss gets best results: study

Research shows that doctor-led programs not as effective

Commercial weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World are more effective and cheaper than family doctor-based services led by specially trained staff, according to the findings of a study.

With a global epidemic of obesity putting huge pressure on health budgets, researchers at Britain’s Birmingham University wanted to compare the effectiveness of doctorled weight loss programs against several well-known commercial schemes.

The results suggest that while commercial schemes generally help people to lose weight, doctor-led programs do not.

After 12 weeks, people in all the schemes studied had achieved significant weight loss, but the average loss ranged from the highest at 9.7 pounds with Weight Watchers down to 3.1 pounds on a program led by primary care staff.

A control group who were not put on any specific diet program but were given vouchers for free access to a gym for 12 weeks lost just as much weight on average as those using health clinic-based based weight-loss programs. After a year, statistically significant weight loss was recorded in all groups apart from the primary care programs, but Weight Watchers was the only program to achieve significantly greater weight loss than the control group.

Kate Jolly, a clinical senior lecturer in public health and epidemiology at Birmingham who led the research, said primary care-based weight loss services led by specially trained staff are “ineffective” while commercially provided services “are more effective and cheaper.”

Worldwide, about 1.5 billion adults are overweight and another half a billion are obese, with 170 million children classified as overweight or obese. Obesity takes up between two and six per cent of health-care costs in many countries.

This latest research, published in the British Medical Journal, comes in the wake of the first goldstandard randomized controlled trial of Weight Watchers last month that showed the program works far better than getting doctors to tell patients to lose weight.

Another study in the U.S. published in 2003 found that one year’s free access to Weight Watchers resulted in an average weight reduction of 7.7 pounds.

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