Obese Adults Referred to Weight Watchers Program by Physicians Lose More Weight

A 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 United Kingdom, 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 during 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 (Thiry-two persect 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

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 United Kingdom 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 United Kingdom this was almost always a nurse
or health care assistant. In Germany this was almost always the family
physician. In Australia it was a mixture of the two depending on practice set

“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

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