TUESDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that
if you want to lose weight, don't try to do it alone.
"Group-based weight-loss treatment produced weight loss, whether delivered by a professional or peer counselor," said study author Angela Marinilli Pinto, assistant professor of psychology at Baruch College of the City University of New York. "When people are in a group with others on the same journey, they feel there is that element of, 'OK, this worked for him or her, perhaps it will work for me. Perhaps I can give it a try.'"
The research was published Oct. 9 in the journal
Pinto and her team randomly assigned 141 overweight or obese men
and women to one of three groups.
One group got 48 weeks of behavioral weight-loss treatment from
a health professional.
A second group participated for 48 weeks in Weight Watchers,
where the meetings are led by members who have achieved and
maintained a healthy goal weight.
A third group got combined treatment. They first had 12 weeks of
behavioral weight-loss treatment from a health professional, and
then transitioned to 36 weeks of Weight Watchers participation.
Pinto said she chose Weight Watchers because it is the largest
commercial program in the United States. It is also oriented to
behavior change and included information on modifying the diet and
increasing physical activity to lose weight and maintain the
Pinto's team was testing the hypothesis that the combination
approach would produce a bigger weight loss than going to Weight
Watchers alone. Starting with the professionally trained leaders,
she thought, would be a good jump start to the weight-loss
The findings were a surprise. At 48 weeks, the researchers found
no evidence that adding brief treatment led by professionals, and
then transitioning to the Weight Watchers program, improved
At 48 weeks, those in the professionally led group lost 11.9
pounds, while those only in Weight Watchers lost more (13.2
pounds). The combination group lost the least -- 7.9 pounds, on
"The losses in the Weight Watchers group were greater than the losses in the combined group," she said. "The weight loss in the professionally led group didn't differ statistically from either [of the other two] groups."
"The Weight Watchers group produced better weight loss than this novel approach [of combining peer and professional]," she said. "Better meeting attendance is associated with better weight losses."
Those in the Weight Watchers group were more likely to lose 10
percent or more of their starting weight than the other groups.
Losing 10 percent of excess weight is viewed by experts as enough
to make a difference in disease risk.
Although more than one-third of those in the Weight Watchers
group lost 10 percent or more of their starting weight, 15 percent
of those in the combined group did and 11 percent of those in the
professionally led group did.
The study shows that there is no evidence that adding
professional guidance improves weight loss over peer-led
Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese,
Pinto said. The study results may provide a practical solution for
The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of
Health. Weight Watchers gave the participants vouchers to enroll,
but had no say in the research. Pinto said she has no ties to
The results are a bit surprising, said Connie Diekman, director
of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis,
because most evidence has found that education by registered
dietitians or behavior therapists enhances understanding of weight
loss and boosts adherence.
"The study does demonstrate that regular involvement in weight-loss classes helps with weight loss," she said. "This point should be considered when people think about weight loss -- doing it alone may not yield success."
Weight Watchers costs about $10 a week, Pinto said. "The cost of
professionally led programs available to the public varies, but
ranges from approximately $10 a week to $35 a week or more," Pinto
To learn more about weight loss, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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