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Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig Beat Other Commercial Diet Plans, Study Finds

MONDAY, April 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Many people turn to commercial weight-loss programs to help them shed excess pounds, but there’s surprisingly little scientific evidence to show whether or not these plans can help keep weight off for the long-term, a new report reveals.

Only two out of 32 major commercial weight-loss programs marketed nationwide — Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig — can boast scientific evidence showing their clients maintain weight loss for at least a year, the researchers found.


Most programs haven’t received any study at all regarding their effectiveness, or have only been reviewed for short-term success, said lead author Dr. Kimberly Gudzune. She is an assistant professor of medicine and a weight-loss specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“We still don’t know whether a lot of these programs work,” Gudzune said.

The study, which was not funded by any commercial weight-loss plan, is published in the April 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Gudzune and several of her co-authors reported receiving support from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The obesity crisis prompted the study, as doctors weigh the various options on hand to help their patients lose weight, Gudzune said.

Two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, increasing their risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the study authors pointed out.

In the United States, weight-loss programs were a $2.5 billion business in 2014, with Weight Watchers leading the pack with 45 percent of the market, according to background information in the study. Nutrisystem has about 14 percent of the market, while Jenny Craig has about 13 percent, the study said.

While these plans are popular, doctors don’t have a lot of information regarding which show real and sustained results, Gudzune said.

“Because I’m looking for the health benefits associated with sustained weight-loss, I feel more comfortable recommending a program to a patient that’s been scientifically proven to work,” she said.

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