1. In this study, a commercial weight loss program resulted in greater weight loss at 3 and 12-months compared to do-it-yourself weight loss methods.

2. Both commercial and do-it-yourself weight loss methods led to improved blood pressure, heart rate, aerobic stamina, flexibility, and sleep quality.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

With the growing obesity pandemic, effective and sustainable treatment options for combating obesity are much needed. Both commercial weight management programs and online resources that help people lose weight through a do-it-your (DIY) approach are widely available. However, the relative efficacy of these two types of methods has not been rigorously studied.

This study was a randomized control trial with 373 adult patients (72.9% female) with a body mass index (BMI) of 25-45 in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Patients who were pregnant, with recent weight loss of greater than 5kg, and prior or planned bariatric surgery were excluded. Patients were randomized 1:1 to either participation in commercial weight loss program with reduced requirements for dietary self-monitoring or a DIY approach. At the end of the 12-months observational period, those randomized into DIY group had free access to the commercial program. The primary outcomes were weight loss at 3 and 12 months. Secondary outcomes included measures of cardiovascular health such as blood pressure, heart rate, as well as flexibility and aerobic stamina.

Results demonstrated that at both 3 and 12 months, participants in the commercial group had greater mean weight loss compared to DIY group, with mean difference between group of -2kg and -2.6kg, respectively. Interestingly, there were no significant differences in improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, aerobic stamina, sleep quality, and flexibility in both groups. This study was limited by potential bias in weight loss motivation in DIY group due to the incentive of receiving free access to commercial program after 12 months as well as the relatively small sample size and short follow-up period. However, these results do suggest that commercial programs have greater effectiveness in reducing weight compared to DIY weight loss strategies, and may be something clinicians should consider when counseling patients about strategies for combating obesity.

Click to read the study in JAMA Network Open 

Image: PD

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