Study shows group-based weight loss treatment effective whether led by health professionals or by peer counselors

October 9, 2012
Study shows that group-based weight loss treatment is effective whether led by health professionals or by peer counselors. Credit: Baruch College

A new National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study conducted at Baruch College and published in Obesity found that overweight and obese adults who participated in three different weight loss treatments, all involving intensive, multi-component counseling delivered in groups, lost significant weight after 48 weeks whether the treatment was led by a health professional or by someone who had previous weight loss success.

This led by Angela Marinilli Pinto, PhD Assistant Professor of Psychology at Baruch College, is the first to compare professionally delivered group-based behavioral weight loss treatment– considered the "gold standard" for treating moderate - to Weight Watchers, which is led by trained peer counselors who have achieved their own successful weight loss. The findings open up the possibility of offering effective, affordable weight loss options to more Americans.

In this study, 141 overweight and and women were randomly assigned to:

  • 48 weeks of behavioral weight loss treatment delivered by a health professional,
  • 48 weeks of Weight Watchers, where group support is led by Weight Watchers members who have successfully achieved and maintained a healthy goal weight,
  • Or a combined treatment consisting of 12 weeks of behavioral weight loss treatment delivered by a health professional followed by 36 weeks of Weight Watchers.
Weight Watchers was chosen because it is the largest commercial program in the United States and is behaviorally oriented and focuses on modifying diet and increasing to produce weight loss. The hypothesized that the combined treatment would produce better weight losses than Weight Watchers alone. Assessments were conducted at baseline and weeks 12, 24, and 48, with weight change as the primary outcome.

All groups lost weight, but contrary to expectations, Weight Watchers participants lost more weight, on average, at the end of treatment compared to participants in the combination approach (mean weight loss in the professionally led program was not significantly different from either group). In fact, 37% of Weight Watchers participants lost 10% or more of their starting weight compared to 15% of combined group participants and 11% of participants in the professionally led group.

Results of the study also showed that better meeting attendance was associated with greater weight losses during the first 24 weeks in all treatments. In the Weight Watchers group, this relationship was maintained even in the second half of treatment, suggesting that individuals who continue to stay involved in the Weight Watchers program do better.

"This study is important because, with almost 70% of American adults classified as overweight or obese, there is a need to provide practical treatment solutions that are effective, accessible, and affordable," Dr. Pinto explained. "Results of this study demonstrate that the Weight Watchers program can produce clinically meaningful losses." The cost of joining is approximately $10 per week, which includes member registration, weekly meetings, and access to online resources.

Explore further: Commercial weight loss programs more effective than NHS-based services

More information: A.M. Pinto et al: Combining behavioral weight loss treatment and a commercial program: a randomized clinical trial. Obesity 2012; DOI: 10.1002/oby.20044

Related Stories

Commercial weight loss programs more effective than NHS-based services

November 4, 2011
Commercial weight loss programmes are more effective and cheaper than primary care based services led by specially trained staff, finds a study published on bmj.com.

Stepped-care intervention results in weight loss, at lower cost

June 26, 2012
Although a standard behavioral weight loss intervention among overweight and obese adults resulted in greater average weight loss over 18 months, a stepped care intervention resulted in clinically meaningful weight loss that ...

Joining a diet club could double weight loss

September 8, 2011
Overweight and obese adults referred to the commercial weight loss programme Weight Watchers lost twice as much weight over a year than those who received standard care from GP practices alone, according to a new study by ...

Recommended for you

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. adults now obese (Update)

October 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Almost forty percent adults in the United States are now obese, continuing an ever-expanding epidemic of obesity that's expected to lead to sicker Americans and higher health care costs.

Tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity in four decades, new study finds

October 10, 2017
The number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5 to 19 years) worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, according to a new study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO). If current ...

Working night shifts may widen your waistline

October 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Workers who regularly pull overnight shifts may be more prone to pack on the pounds, a new analysis suggests.

Weight loss for adults at any age leads to cost savings, study suggests

September 26, 2017
Helping an adult lose weight leads to significant cost savings at any age, with those savings peaking at age 50, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

U.S. pays a hefty price for obesity

September 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A U.S. adult who is "healthy" but obese could eventually cost society tens of thousands of dollars in medical care and lost wages, a new study estimates.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.