Patients who are referred by their doctors to Weight Watchers were found to lose about twice as much weight as those on standard weight loss care over a 12-month period, researchers from the UK, Germany and Australia reported in The Lancet. The randomized control trial provided compelling evidence that Weight Watchers was twice as effective as a commercial weight-loss program with standard care by GPs (general practitioners, primary care physicians).

Patients in the Weight Watchers group stayed on the diet in larger numbers, lost more fat mass, lost more weight, and had greater reductions of their waist measurements compared to the those on standard care, the authors wrote.

The researchers added that Weight Watchers is a robust intervention that can be applied generally to other developed industrialized nations.

Study leader, Susan Jebb, said

“This kind of research is important so that we can identify clinically effective interventions to treat obesity.”

As background information, the authors explained that the ever-growing obesity and overweight rates require effective approaches for weight loss in community and general practice settings.

Experts say that obesity will soon overtake smoking as the single most preventable cause of chronic diseases worldwide.

In this study, patients were randomly selected into two groups:

  • Weight Watchers group – patients received a 12-month free membership
  • Standard care group – a 12-month diet care regime was offered by a primary care team

Below are some highlighted findings about the patients in the Weight Watchers group, compared to those in the other group:

  • On average, they lost twice as much weight
  • Their chances of losing at least 10% of their initial body weight was three times as high
  • 61% lost 5% or more of their body weight in the Weight Watchers group
  • 32% of those in the Standard Care group lost 5% or more of their body weight
  • Those in the Weight Watchers group lost an average of 5.1 kg, compared to 2.2 kg in the other group

The authors concluded in an Abstract in the journal:

“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.”

An Article in The Lancet last month reported that obesity affects males and females of all ages in high income countries, and is becoming more common in poorer people compared to low-income nations, where obesity appears to be more common in adults of middle age, especially wealthy urban females.

Approximately 1.5 billion adults worldwide are overweight, of which 0.5 billion are obese. 170 million children are obese/overweight globally. In the USA and the state of Western Australia, obesity has overtaken tobacco as the leading preventable cause of disease.

Written by Christian Nordqvist