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Study: Weight Watchers as Successful as Clinical Weight-Loss Programs

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Commercial weight-loss programs like Weight Watchers may be just as effective in losing weight as clinical programs, and the key ingredient to success in both programs is buddying up, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Obesity.

In the study, 141 overweight and obese adults were randomly assigned into one of three groups -- a weight-loss behavioral program led by a health professional, or Weight Watchers, led by peers who had achieved their own weight-loss success, or a combination of both programs.

Overweight and obese adults who participated in any of the three weight-loss treatments that involved group counseling, whether it was with a health professional or with peers, as well as physical activity and diet change, lost a significant amount of weight nearly a year later, the study found.

"When people who are working on a similar problem get together, they can support each other so they don't feel alone in this weight-loss journey," said Angela Pinto, assistant professor of psychology at Baruch College of the City University of New York and lead researcher.

"With the group idea, there's a sense of belonging," said Pinto, adding that participants may be more likely to complete their weight-loss goal when others are working with them.  

Participants in both programs lost about the same amount of weight in total.  However, more than double the number of participants enrolled in the Weight Watchers program lost 10 percent or more of their starting weight compared with the other two groups.

The outcome of the study showed that Weight Watchers can produce clinically relevant weight loss, according to Pinto.

The study is the first to provide a head-to-head comparison between a commercial weight loss program and a clinical weight loss program.  Its findings suggest that people who are looking to lose weight more affordably can still do so successfully, the researchers said.

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ABC News Radio