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Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig come out on top among commercial weight loss programs

Philadelphia, March 3, 2015 -- Physicians looking for an effective commercial weight-loss program for their overweight and obese patients may want to recommend Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. According to an updated evidence review of 11 commercial weight-loss programs, only Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig showed evidence for effective long-term weight loss. The review is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that clinicians screen all adults for obesity and offer or refer overweight or obese patients to intensive, multi-component behavioral interventions for weight loss. Several commercial weight loss programs meet the recommended criteria, but their efficacy is unclear.

Researchers reviewed published research to compare weight loss, adherence, and harms of 11 commercial or proprietary weight loss programs. All of the programs studied emphasized nutrition and behavioral counseling or social support components with or without physical activity. Of those, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Health Management Resources, Medifast, OPTIFAST, Atkins, The Biggest Loser Club, eDiets, Lose It!, and SlimFast had trials that met inclusion criteria.

The researchers found that only Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers showed evidence that they helped people lose weight and then keep it off for twelve months or more. Other popular programs, such as NutriSystem, showed promising weight-loss results in the short-term, but additional research is needed to determine long-term results.

The author of an accompanying editorial is not surprised that highly structured programs with in-person social support, such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, seem more effective but cautions that weight loss with such programs is modest and likely below patients' expectations. These unrealistic expectations may affect patients' willingness to adhere to any program.

About Annals of Internal Medicine
Annals of Internal Medicine is one of the most widely cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world. The journal has been published for 88 years and accepts only about 7 percent of the original research studies submitted for publication. Annals of Internal Medicine has a 2013 impact factor of 16.104, ranking it fifth out of 150 journals in the category "Medicine, General & Internal." The journal is published by the American College of Physicians (ACP). Follow Annals on Twitter and Facebook.

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Media Contact: Angela Collom (acollom@acponline.org or 215-351-2653)