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Weight Watchers tops doctor's advice for weight loss

weight watchers, diet, obesity
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(CBS) Does a doctor's advice give patients the best chance to lose weight?

If the doctor's advice is to join Weight Watchers, it might.

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A new study shows patients referred to the popular weight-loss program shed twice as many pounds as those who followed a doctor's guideline-based treatment plan of diet and physical activity.

For the study - published in the September 8 issue of The Lancet - 772 overweight English, German, and Australian patients were assigned to attend either weekly Weight Watchers meetings or receive weight loss standard care from a primary care doctor. Twelve months later, patients assigned to Weight Watchers lost on average 15 pounds, compared to 7 pounds in the standard care group.

"The greater weight loss in participants assigned to the commercial program was accompanied by greater reductions in waist circumference and fat mass than in participants assigned to standard care, which would be expected to lead to a reduction in the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," study author Dr. Susan Jebb, head of nutrition and health of the U.K. Medical Research Council, said in a written statement.

It's worth noting the study was funded by Weight Watchers, and it's not like the doctors were ineffective. Patients assigned to the standard care treatment lost 5 percent of their body weight, confirming that medical intervention is capable of helping patients lose weight and keep it off for a year.

The authors say the results of this European study could probably to folks across the Atlantic, where nearly a third of Americans are obese.

"The similar weight losses achieved in Australia, Germany and the U.K. implies that this commercial program, in partnership with primary care providers, is a robust intervention which is likely to be generalizable to other economically developed countries with a Western lifestyle," Jebb said.

Americans can use the help based on the direction the country's heading. A recent Lancet study found half of Americans will be obese by 2030, which would result in 8 million new cases of diabetes, 7 million new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 500,000 new cancer cases, CBS News reported.

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