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J Prim Care Community Health. 2012 Oct 1;3(4):251-5. doi: 10.1177/2150131912439893. Epub 2012 Mar 4.

A pilot randomized trial comparing a commercial weight loss program with a clinic-based intervention for weight loss.

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  • 1Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Denver, Colorado, USA.



To compare the efficacy of a popular commercial program with that of a clinic-based intervention for weight loss.


Randomized clinical trial conducted at an internal medicine clinic affiliated with a city hospital in Denver, Colorado. Participant (n = 46) had a body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m(2) and no life-threatening medical conditions. They either were provided a voucher to attend Weight Watchers for 17 weeks (n = 23), or they were assigned to the clinic group (n = 23), which provided 12 visits over 17 weeks and the option to augment weight loss using either meal replacements or weight loss medication. The primary study outcome was weight change.


Participants assigned to the clinic arm lost 4.0 ± 1.2 kg, compared to 0.4 ± 1.1 for those assigned to the commercial program (P = .04 for difference). Weight losses in the clinic arm were 3.2 kg for meal replacements (n = 10) and 5.0 kg for phentermine (n = 13).


In this single-site trial, a clinic-based intervention was more effective than a popular commercial program for weight loss. Primary care providers in the United States are under increasing pressure to combat the epidemic of obesity. This trial, although small, begins to address how the primary care setting might play that role.


commercial weight loss programs; meal replacements; obesity; pharmacotherapy; primary care

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