- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A review of 10 of the nation’s most popular weight-loss programs found there was not enough evidence to support the contentions many of them make about helping people shed pounds and keep them off.

Of the programs researchers examined, only Weight Watchers had strong documentation that it worked — with one study showing that participants lost about 5 percent (on average about 10 pounds) of their initial weight in six months and kept off about half of it two years later.

However, the researchers who conducted the review published yesterday in Annals of Internal Medicine stressed that the lack of scientific evidence should not be viewed as an attack on diet programs.

“There are no data on weight loss when you go to a health club, either,” said Thomas Wadden, a University of Pennsylvania weight-loss expert and the study’s co-author. “We hope that doctors and patients will use this information to make more informed decisions.”

About 45 million Americans diet each year, and $1 billion to $2 billion is spent annually on weight-loss programs. But millions of those who enroll in such programs every year do not have much to go on when choosing a plan because few studies have been done that pass scientific muster.

The review aimed to replace glossy ads and dramatic testimonials with information about program components, safety, staff qualifications, cost and effectiveness — and should serve as a call to programs to conduct more strenuous research, Mr. Wadden said.



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