Another study has weighed in on Weight Watchers and, once again, the popular diet program has come out on top.

Researchers led by Angela Marinilli Pinto, an assistant professor of psychology at Baruch College in New York City, pitted psychologist-led "behavioral weight loss" programs against a 48-week membership to Weight Watchers and found that the commercial weight loss program helped dieters shed more pounds and stick with their healthy new lifestyle longer.

141 overweight or obese men and women were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  1. A behavioral weight-loss treatment led by a health professional trained in nutrition and behavior management
  2. A Weight Watchers group led by peer counselors
  3. A hybrid program that combined 12 weeks of behavioral weight loss treatments followed by 36 weeks of Weight Watchers

Each program lasted a total of 48 weeks, after which participants’ weight loss was assessed.

Participants in all three groups experienced significant weight loss, regardless of whether or not the group was run by a health professional. Weight Watchers users fared best, losing just over 13 lbs. on average. Those in the professionally-led group lost just under 12 lbs., while those in the hybrid program lost nearly 8 lbs.

37% of participants in the Weight Watchers group lost 10% of their body weight, compared with 15% of participants in the combination group and 11% of participants in the weight loss professional group. Weight Watchers subjects also attended more meetings, used their program's electronic tools more frequently, and were more likely to complete all 48 weeks of the study than those in other groups.

The Angela Marinilli Pinto-led research team expressed surprise at their findings. They expected the hybrid program to be the most effective choice for weight loss, but seem happy to be proved wrong. "Weight Watchers really can produce clinically meaningful weight loss for a lot of people," said Pinto. "It can be very convenient for people to access, and professional programs don't always have that convenience and accessibility."

In a world in which obesity is becoming an increasingly serious problem, that kind of convenience and accessibility is crucial in the battle for good health. Weight Watchers is the largest commercial weight loss program in the U.S., with approximately 1.3 million members who attend more than 45,000 official meetings around the world. Together they spend more than $5 billion on Weight Watchers products and services yearly.

In Britain, the National Health Service has paid to send obese patients to Weight Watchers since 2005…perhaps the U.S., in a desperate bid to improve the health of the nation, will soon do the same.

For more information on this service you can read our Weight Watchers review.