Many Commercial Weight Loss Programs Too Good to Be True

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Commercial Weight Loss Programs Fail to Deliver Claimed Results.

Apple, Scale, and Tape Measure

Apple, Scale, and Tape Measure

Weight management is a booming industry.  So, you have decided to lose those pesky little pounds that have been dogging you for years.  There are literally hundreds of options for fat diets, commercial diets, or online programs out there.  Each one has their one approach to losing weight, and few deliver the level of promise you see in their commercials.   Below is a summary of a few articles that might help you find the best one for you.  

The first piece of research I will review was published on 2 September of 2017 in the journal Obesity[1].  The study was a meta-analysis entitled “Commercial Programs’ Online Weight-Loss Claims Compared to Results from Randomized Controlled Trials.”  As the title implies, the study was a review of previous randomized controlled trials and testimonials presented by the diet programs.   A content analysis was performed on 24 randomly selected programs.  Only 10 out of the 24 programs had eligible RCTs. Two team members independently reviewed each page and abstracted information from text and images to capture relevant content, including demographics, weight loss, and disclaimers.  A systematic review was performed to evaluate the efficacy of these programs and the mean weight change from each randomized controlled trial included was abstracted.  The study revealed the amount of weight loss portrayed in the testimonials was much larger across all programs examined when compared to the results of randomized controlled trials.  

False stamp

False stamp

Another study I read for this article was published in 2016 and was a meta-analysis entitled “Direct comparisons of commercial weight-loss programs on weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure: a systematic review”[2].  Like the first study, this study reviewed prior research results of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) of at least 12 weeks duration that reported comparisons with other commercial weight-loss programs.  They found that there was no statistically significant difference in waist circumference change among the included programs.  Unlike the commercials on TV, there is limited evidence that any one of the commercial weight-loss programs has superior results for mean weight change, mean waist circumference change, or mean blood pressure change.

 

One last study entitled “The Role of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs” was published in The Annals of Internal Medicine[3].  This study looked at the randomized controlled trials about Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Adkins, eDiets, Lose-it, The Biggest Loser Club, Medifast, OPTIFAT, and Slimfast.  The study found that few popular commercial weight-loss programs, including Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, show promise in facilitating modest weight loss in overweight or obese patients.  Most available commercial programs have not been rigorously evaluated, and much remains unknown about the long-term outcomes, even for programs for which there are data.

The bottom line: Most commercial weight loss programs, like supplements, make outlandish claims that are quite unbelievable, and if seems unreal, it probably is false.  

Footnotes
[1]Vakil et al., “Commercial Programs’ Online Weight-Loss Claims Compared to Results from Randomized Controlled Trials.”
[2]Vakil et al., “Direct Comparisons of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs on Weight, Waist Circumference, and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review.”
[3]Wee, “The Role of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs.”
Vakil, Rachit M., Zoobia W. Chaudhry, Ruchi S. Doshi, Jeanne M. Clark, and Kimberly A. Gudzune. “Commercial Programs’ Online Weight-Loss Claims Compared to Results from Randomized Controlled Trials.” Obesity, September 2, 2017. doi: 10.1002/oby.21959
Vakil, Rachit M., Ruchi S. Doshi, Ambereen K. Mehta, Zoobia W. Chaudhry, David K. Jacobs, Clare J. Lee, Sara N. Bleich, Jeanne M. Clark, and Kimberly A. Gudzune. “Direct Comparisons of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs on Weight, Waist Circumference, and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review.” BMC Public Health 16, no. 1 (June 1, 2016). doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3112-z
Wee, Christina C. “The Role of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs.” Annals of Internal Medicine 162, no. 7 (April 7, 2015): 522. doi: 10.7326/m15-0429
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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