Weight Watchers More Effective Than Doctor-Only Directed Weight Loss

Issues of obesity and overweight are expected to be high on the list of priority topics at the upcoming summit of the United Nations on non-communicable diseases (NCD), reports PBS Newshour. Results of a clinical trial conducted by 14 researchers at the UK Medical Research Council have been published in the British medical journal, The Lancet -- just in time to be considered by health professionals from around the world at the September 19 summit.

The trial included more than 770 participants from the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany and measured the difference in effectiveness of a commercial weight loss program versus doctor-only directed weight loss care. Study participants were split roughly in half, with one group receiving only standard physician-directed weight loss care and the other group receiving services through the commercial weight loss plan, Weight Watchers, explains the study report.

The participants who followed the Weight Watchers program for 12 months lost twice as much weight as the participants who had doctor-only weight loss care for the same time period.

Although headlines in some media have suggested this clinical trial proves the superiority of Weight Watchers over other commercial weight loss plans, the study had no such purpose.  The intention and application of the study was only to compare one commercial weight loss plan against doctor-only directed weight loss care.

It is worth noting that Weight Watchers funded the study, but  the clinical trial was carried out by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC, as stated on its website, is a publicly funded research group whose mission statement states, in part, the organization is to "encourage and support research to improve human health." The funding of the clinical trial does not necessarily constitute a bias on the part of the research team. The British government founded the MRC  British government in 1913 and enjoys a professional reputation in the scientific community.

Obesity is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases--diseases that are often called chronic diseases. These conditions include heart and lung disease, some cancers and diabetes, according to PBS Newshour. As the numbers of people who are overweight or obese increase, so does the incidence of chronic diseases.  The overweight, sedentary lifestyle that has come to represent the Western world is also bringing with it an ever-higher-spiraling in health care costs.

Will the U.N. summit result in recommendations for more people to join commercial weight loss plans to not only aid in weight loss, but also in health promotion? Will this clinical study spur some governments to pay for  care in the form of a weight loss club versus paying for the long-term effects of obesity? Time will tell. In the meantime, weigh the facts for yourself.