Want to lose weight? U.S. scientists say these diet plans get top marks

On Weight Watchers, consumers lost at least eight pounds and kept the weight off for at least 12 months. On Jenny Craig, dieters lost about 15 pounds, the researchers said. CP Images

There are the diets that make you count your points, eat according to strict meal plans or force you to cut out entire food groups. While they all promise you’ll lose weight, new research suggests some commercial diet plans garner better results than others.

After reviewing dozens of studies, American doctors out of Johns Hopkins University said that Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig get top marks when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off in the long run. The two commercial weight-loss programs were stacked next to nine other diets in the review.

On Weight Watchers, consumers lost at least eight pounds and kept the weight off for at least 12 months. On Jenny Craig, dieters lost about 15 pounds, the researchers said.

READ MORE: Atkins and South Beach – diets garner similar results, Canadian study suggests

“Primary care doctors need to know what programs have rigorous trials showing that they work, but they haven’t had much evidence to rely on,” Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, an assistant professor and weight loss specialist at the university’s School of Medicine, said.

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“Our review should give clinicians a better idea of what programs they might consider for their patients,” she suggested.

The doctors zeroed in on 32 major commercial weight loss programs but discovered that only 11 have been thoroughly studied. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers scored the best in randomized controlled trials when it came to losing weight and keeping it off compared to people who were dieting on their own, following printed information or heading to food counselling.

Other programs like NutriSystem showed “promising” results, but more research needs to be done, the researchers said.

READ MORE: 13 tips for eating healthier in 2014

The trio of diet programs that worked best included counselling, coaching and social support, which are important for long-term success.

The scientists couldn’t come up with definite conclusions when it came to diets like Slim Fast and Internet-based programs, such as the Biggest Loser Club. Atkins, eDiets, Medifast, HMR and Lose It! were also studied.

Overall, most participants remained overweight, with weight loss of between three per cent and five per cent of their initial weight — but that’s a range that doctors typically recommend to achieve healthful benefits including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

“It’s a really important first step to reach,” even if it doesn’t meet patients’ expectations, Gudzune told the Associated Press.

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The study was published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine. It follows Canadian research released in the fall that compared brand name diets.

In that case, Hospital for Sick Children, McMaster University and University of Alberta researchers suggested that all commercial diets garner similar results if you stick to them.

On average, consumers lose between 17 to 19 pounds. But by the end of the year, some of that weight is already gained back.

Atkins, Weight Watchers, the Zone, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and South Beach were some of the programs studied.

READ MORE: Do fad diets followed by celebrities work?

Each program touts a magic nutrient, low-carb fat-burning, or a low-fat diet that melts away pounds, but that’s all a moot point, according to the researchers.

At the six month follow-up, people on low-carb diets lost 19 pounds more than their counterparts who weren’t dieting. Those on low-fat diets lost 17 more pounds than others who weren’t dieting. But by the end of a full year, there was no difference between the two diets.

– With files from the Associated Press

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