Which weight loss programs are effective?
Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig may be the most effective programs for keeping weight off over the course of a year, according to an analysis of commercial weight loss programs done at Johns Hopkins University.
Researchers looked at 39 published studies on 11 weight-loss programs that evaluated the effectiveness of the program and were long-term randomized controlled trials. The studies had to be 12 weeks long and the programs had to be comprehensive to be included in the analysis, meaning they also involved both nutrition and behavioral counseling or social support, but didn’t necessarily emphasize physical fitness. The 11 programs studied were Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Health Management Resources (HMR), Medifast, Optifast, Atkins, Slimfast, The Biggest Loser Club, eDiets, and Lose It!
The findings, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, revealed that only people who participated in Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig achieved significant weight loss and sustained that weight loss over the year. Jenny Craig participants lost an average of 4.9 percent more weight and Weight Watchers participants lost an average of 2.6 percent more weight compared to people who did not enroll in a program and tried to diet on their own. Nutrisystem showed promise early on with participants losing 3.8 percent more weight in the first three months compared to people who did not participate. However, there was not enough sufficient evidence to determine how well this weight loss would be sustained by participants in the long term.
The researchers said that although dieters in even the most effective weight loss plans experienced only modest weight loss--3 to 5 percent after 12 months--that's still an important first goal to reach.