Weight Watchers approach is eight times more effective

Those in the Weight Watchers group were 8 times more likely to achieve a 5% reduction in baseline weight at 6 months, with those in the self-help group actually gaining weight.
New study

New science presented at the European Congress of Obesity in Liverpool reveals that with the commercial slimming brand Weight Watchers, participants lost on average, five times more weight than those going it alone1.

The randomised controlled trial, run by the Baylor College of Medicine in the US, compared weight loss among people following the Weight Watchers approach and those following a self-help approach. It indicated that after three and six months, people who followed the Weight Watchers approach achieved significantly greater weight loss than people who tried to lose weight on their own.

Mean weight loss after three months in the Weight Watchers group was 3.9kg compared with 0.8kg in the self-help group. After six months the difference in results between the groups was even more stark, with mean weight loss in the Weight Watchers group at 4.6kg compared with 0.6kg in the self-help group. Those in the Weight Watchers group were 8 times more likely to achieve a 5% reduction in baseline weight at 6 months, with those in the self-help group actually gaining weight.

Dr. Craig A Johnston Ph.D., Lead Researcher on the study said: “The difference in weight loss between the two groups is compelling. Whilst people in the Weight Watchers group demonstrated significant weight loss at six months, people in the self-help group started to re-gain weight. Over time, it is unlikely that DIY diets are successful.

Dr Johnston continues: “Also striking is the level of weight loss in the Weight Watchers group. Simply put, more people in the Weight Watchers group experienced clinically meaningful weight loss which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.”

147 participants were randomised to Weight Watchers with another 145 participants randomised to the self-help group. Those in the self-help group were provided with publicly available printed materials explaining basic dietary and exercise guidelines for safe weight loss. Other resources such as public library materials, websites and telephone numbers of health promotion organisations offering free weight control information were also made available.

The study also concluded that the most important factor for weight-loss success was attending Weight Watchers meetings, which were part of the multiple access routes for the programme (the group also has access to a mobile app and online tools). Attending meetings was the strongest predictor of weight-loss success.

Zoe Hellman, Head of Public Health, Weight Watchers said; “These results demonstrate that the Weight Watchers approach works. We believe that our meetings provide a powerful element of regular group support, where people are motivated, supported and learn how to change their lifestyles - and we have all the tools available to help them, with online and mobile access to our programme”.

This is the latest published research which supports the body of clinical evidence that proves Weight Watchers to be an effective and sustainable weight loss approach. Most recently, a study published in Obesity in 20122, reported that Weight Watchers provided weight management treatments that were as good as recognised ‘gold standard’ treatments delivered by healthcare professionals. A one year global study published in The Lancet3 in 2011 indicated that overweight and obese adults referred to Weight Watchers lost more than twice as much weight when compared with those who received standard care by their local GP practice.

An independent study ‘Lighten Up’ also published in 2011 in the British Medical Journal4, concluded that community based weight loss programmes were more effective and cheaper than those provided by specially trained health professionals.

A further independent study published in December 2012 in the Journal of Public Health5 concluded patients referred to Weight Watchers were more likely to lose weight than patients who attended other commercial slimming groups, Slimming World and Rosemary Conley.


Dr. Craig A Johnston Ph.D., Lead Researcher on the study is available for interview. Please contact the Weight Watchers PR team for more information

With 1 billion overweight and more than 300 million obese people worldwide, the need for effective programmes is huge. Weight Watchers approach has a large pool of scientific evidence including this latest study, showing it can produce significant weight loss in a safe, cost effective, truly scalable and sustainable manor.
Weight Watchers is the world’s leading provider of weight management services with almost 50 years of experience. Each week over 1 million members attend over 40,000 meetings around the world.

The European Congress of Obesity (ECO) supports excellence in obesity science across Europe and facilitates the exchange of ideas, methodological innovations, and new advances across the obesity field. These study results are being published at this scientific meeting. In addition Craig Johnston, the lead investigator for this trial, will be discussing these seminal study results at a symposium on Tuesday 14th May 13.15-14.45. http://www.easo.org/eco2013

Foot notes:

1. Weight loss results after 12 weeks from a randomised clinical trial funded by Weight Watchers comparing people who were provided access to Weight Watchers meetings and eTools (including Mobile) to people who were asked to lose weight on their own and provided weight-loss educational materials.

2. Pinto AM et al (2012) Combining behavioral weight loss treatment and a commercial program: a randomized clinical trial. Obesity; DOI: 10.1002/oby.20044

3. Jebb S et al (2011) Primary care referral to a commercial provider for weight loss treatment, relative to standard care: An international randomised controlled trial. Lancet September 7

4. Jolly K et al (2011) Comparison of range of commercial or primary care led weight reduction programmes with minimal intervention control for weight loss in obesity: Lighten Up randomised controlled trial. BMJ: 343

5. Dixon K et al (2012) Weight Loss from Three Commercial Providers of NHS Primary Care Slimming on Referral in North Somerset: Service Evaluation. Journal of Public Health. 2012 Dec

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