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Am J Med. 2013 Dec;126(12):1143.e19-24. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.04.025. Epub 2013 Oct 15.

A randomized controlled trial of a community-based behavioral counseling program.

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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics-Nutrition, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex; Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex. Electronic address:



The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that clinicians refer obese adults for intensive, multicomponent behavioral counseling, yet most obese Americans choose a self-help approach to lose weight. The current study examined weight loss between a community-based, intensive behavioral counseling program (Weight Watchers program) and a self-help condition.


A total of 292 participants were randomized to either a Weight Watchers condition (WW) (n = 147) or a self-help condition (n = 145). Participants in the WW condition were provided with 3 ways to access the treatment: weekly meetings; WW mobile application; and WW online tools. Weights were measured at baseline and at 3 and 6 months. Additionally, self-report use of access modes was collected at 3 and 6 months.


Participants in the WW condition significantly decreased their body mass index at 6 months (F = 36.7, P <.001) and were 8.0 and 8.8 times more likely to achieve a 5% and 10% reduction in weight, respectively, compared with those in the self-help condition. In a secondary analysis, high usage of all 3 access modes resulted in the greatest weight loss (P <.001).


Use of the WW program yielded significantly greater weight loss than a self-help approach, suggesting it is a viable community-based provider of weight loss treatment, as recommended by the USPSTF. Further, high usage of 3 access modes was associated with greater weight loss results.


Commercial; Community-based; Intervention; Randomized; Weight loss

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