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Weight Loss Programs Put to the Test continued...

By the end of the study, researchers found that people in the Weight Watchers group lost more weight -- an average of about 13 pounds -- than those in the combination group, who lost about 8 pounds.

Average weight loss in the professional weight loss program (about 12 pounds) was not significantly different from the other groups.

But more than one-third of the Weight Watchers participants lost 10% or more of their starting weight by the end of the study, compared with 15% in the combined group and 11% in the professional weight loss group.

Cost and Accessibility Differences

Researchers say group behavioral therapy delivered by a clinically trained professional is considered the “gold standard” in weight loss treatment.

But these professionally led programs are typically more expensive than commercial weight loss programs, or have limited availability at major academic health centers.

“Not everyone lives in an area close to a university that has health professionals performing weight control programs,” says Krukowski.

Researchers say hospital-based weight loss programs available to the public typically range in price from $10 to $35 per week.

The cost of joining Weight Watchers is about $10 and includes member meetings and Internet-based eTools.

Krukowski says a key advantage of peer- or health educator-led weight loss programs is that the leader usually shares similarities with those enrolled in the program and can relate to them. They are also more familiar with their community and the issues they face than a health professional in a center miles away.

Krukowski says another plus of commercial weight loss programs is more flexible meeting times and locations, which can help people with busy schedules stick to their program and goals.

This study also shows that meeting attendance was an important factor in successful weight loss.

Pinto says better meeting attendance was linked to greater weight loss among all weight loss groups during the first half of treatment.

But this relationship was better maintained through the second half of the study by those in the Weight Watchers group and may help explain their success.

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