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Doctor referral to Weight Watchers doubles lost pounds for patients

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Physicians who refer overweight and obese patients to Weight Watchers are likely to have slimmer clientele, compared to doctors who send patients for standard diet counseling. In a study finding, researchers showed patients lost twice as much weight as those given one-on-one weekly counseling with a nurse, doctor or health care assistant.

Lower risk of type 2 diabetes found in Weight Watchers study

The study authors say the simple act of referring a patient to Weight Watchers lowers type 2 diabetes risk.

In addition to losing twice as much weight, participants, who were recruited from primary care practices in the UK, Germany and Australia, were more likely to lose an additional 10 percent of their initial body weight from attending Weight Watchers. They lost more fat mass and decreased their waist circumference, reducing the chances of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Susan Jebb, head of diet and population health, Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research Unit in Cambridge who led the study said:

“Trials like this are vital to identify effective interventions to tackle obesity and provide the evidence to inform policy decisions. The similar weight losses achieved in Australia, Germany and the UK implies that this commercial program, in partnership with primary care providers, is a robust intervention which is likely to be generalizable to other economically developed countries with a Western lifestyle”.

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According to the World Health Organization, approximately one billion people worldwide are currently overweight. More than 300 million are considered obese.

The authors say the finding is important given the rising rates of obesity and diabetes. The study finding provides a means for health care providers to respond to the obesity crisis.

Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers International, says the study “…reinforces the importance of group support for long-term behavioral change and sustainable weight loss.”

David Kirchhoff, President and CEO, Weight Watchers International says the study “… proves that Weight Watchers is part of the solution to help transform the health of nations.”

The authors note physicians in the UK have been referring patients to the Weight Watchers program for the past seven years - and it works. The study is published in the journal Lancet

Ahern A et al (2011) Weight Watchers on prescription: An observational study of weight change among adults referred to Weight Watchers by the NHS, BMC Public Health, 11, 434