A new, 1-year global study indicated that overweight and obese adults referred to Weight Watchers, a community based provider of weight-loss services, lost more than twice as much weight when compared with those who received standard care.
The study included participants who were recruited by primary care practices in the UK, Germany and Australia. It was conducted by research teams led by Susan Jebb, MD, head of diet and population health, Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research Unit in Cambridge, UK; Hans Hauner, professor, Faculty of Medicine, Technische Universität München, Germany; and Ian Caterson, professor, Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders, University of Sydney, Australia, and looked at weight loss among 772 people randomized to attend Weight Watchers meetings or to receive standard weight loss treatment in their primary care practice over a 12-month period.
Participants assigned to Weight Watchers lost, on average, more than twice as much weight as those in the standard care group. They were also more than three times as likely to lose 10% or more of their initial weight. Moreover, 61% of patients in the Weight Watchers group finished the study having lost at least 5% of their body weight (32% did so in the standard care group). Weight loss between 5% and 10% is shown to have significant health benefits and reduces the risks of diabetes and heart disease.
The significantly greater weight loss among Weight Watchers participants was accompanied by significantly greater reductions in waist size and fat mass, lessening the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“Trials like these are vital to identify effective interventions to tackle obesity and provide the evidence to inform policy decisions,” Jebb stated in a press release. “The similar weight losses achieved in Australia, Germany and the UK implies that this commercial program, in partnership with primary care providers, is a robust intervention which is likely to be generalizable to other economically developed countries with a Western lifestyle.”
People assigned to standard care reported attending one appointment per month, while those assigned to Weight Watchers reported attending three appointments each month.
Standard care was predominantly one to one with a primary care healthcare professional. In the UK this was almost always a nurse or healthcare assistant. In Germany this was almost always the family physician. In Australia it was a mixture of the two depending on practice set up.
“The discrepancy in time spent between patients assigned to the two treatments suggests that those referred to Weight Watchers were able to be much more engaged and benefitted from the intense support the weekly meetings provided and made them feel more accountable for their weight loss efforts,” Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer, Weight Watchers International, stated in a press release. “This reinforces the importance of group support for long-term behavioral change and sustainable weight loss.”