Review of commercial weight management programs in the United States

Published May 25, 2017

When commercial weight-loss programs were compared to control/education or behavioral counseling among overweight and obese adults based on weight-loss efficacy, adherence, and harms, Weight Watchers was ranked as one of the top programs in the 2015 Annals of Internal Medicine review. 

The Johns Hopkins University researchers identified 141 commercial and proprietary weight-loss programs, and focused on the 32 that incorporated nutrition and behavioral counseling. Of these programs, only 11 had data published from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or prospective studies that tested their effectiveness.

The review found that of the three companies leading the market share—Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and Weight Watchers—there were 14 published RCTs and eight of those included Weight Watchers.  The review found that Weight Watchers consistently has greater weight losses than control/education participants and sustained it beyond 12 months, with low risk for adverse events.  The authors concluded that: “Clinicians might consider prioritizing referral only for those commercial programs that have a substantial body of evidence showing a consistent long-term effect.” 

How Weight Watchers compares to Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and other weight-loss programs

Weight WatchersHighGroup sessions
Online coaching
Online community forum
Jenny CraigHigh1-on-1 counseling$570Yes3
NutrisystemHigh1-on-1 counseling
Online community forum
HMRHighGroup sessions
Telephone coaching
Medical supervision
MedifastHigh1-on-1 counseling
Online coaching
OPTIFASTHigh1-on-1 counseling
Group support
Medical supervision
AtkinsSelf-directedOnline community forum$10 (for book)No8
The Biggest Loser ClubSelf-directedOnline community forum$20No1
eDietsSelf-directedOnline nutrient support
Online community forum
Lose It!Self-directedOnline community forumFreeNo1
SlimFastSelf-directedOnline nutrition support
Coaching text messages

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