Weight Watchers Gets Thumbs Up in Study
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.
“People who continued to attend treatment did better,” says Pinto. “Staying engaged in treatment is important in trying to work toward weight loss goals.”
Pinto says the results suggest that more research is needed to help identify not only effective programs to help people lose weight, but also accessible ones.
“We need to better understand how to best offer treatment to individuals who want to lose weight given the high prevalence of overweight and obesity,” says Pinto.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and Weight Watchers International provided vouchers for participants to enroll in the program at no cost.