Weight-loss programs

Are Weight-Loss Programs A Waste Of Money? Study Finds Most Are

Weight-loss programs are coming under scrutiny for making your wallet thinner, not you.

Fox News reports that Americans spend more than $2.5 billion dollars annually on programs designed to shed pounds. However, there is very little scientific evidence that those weight-loss programs actually work. This was the conclusion after over 4,200 research papers on this subject revealed.

Published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the report found that of the 32 weight-loss programs for sale in the United States, only 11 have been studied using a randomized controlled trial. Of those 11, only two — Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig — showed scientific proof of customers losing weight as opposed to customers trying to lose weight on their own.

These studies were a follow-up to a 2005 system-wide review of these weight-loss programs, whether commercial or proprietary. The new trials consisted of 39, 12-week trials for the 11 weight-loss programs. The new trials show that only one, Weight Watchers, have modest success with losing weight.

“Losing weight and keeping it off is a top concern for most Americans,” said lead study author Kimberly Gudzune, assistant medicine professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I’m a physician myself, so I thought it was really important to give patients and their physicians guidance on programs to show which can really help them lose weight.”

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight to obese, which could lead to high blood pressure, heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, or a combination of these.

According to New York Magazine, Gudzune realized that most of the 4,200 studies were ineffective and not rigorous enough, like the 39 12-week trials. Though Weight Watchers can provide modest results, nutritional counselling would provide, better, longer-lasting results.

Low-calorie weight-loss programs, like Optifast, Health Resources Management, and Medifast, offered initial success, showing a 4 percent weight loss in six months as opposed to control groups. However, studies showed that results after six months resulted in negligible weight loss.

Folks trying Nutrisystem did lose 3.8 percent more weight than those in a control group for the first three months. But, since the trial only lasted three months, there’s no substantial data past that initial three-month period.

As for self-directed plans like SlimFast and online programs like eDiets and Lose It!, as well as the rest of the weight-loss programs, there simply wasn’t enough data for any kind of conclusion to be made.

Even the most successful weight-loss programs, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, show that weight that is lost is most likely to return. The problem now is that weight-loss programs like Weight Watchers are losing market share to newer weight-loss programs.

Perhaps New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle offers the best advice. Your best weight-loss program is “eating less, eating healthier, avoiding junk food, and moving more work every time.”

[Image courtesy of Pop Sugar]