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Weight-Loss Program Comparison Omits Vital Information

05/20/11

  01:05:13 pm, by MedBen5   , 377 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Weight-Loss Program Comparison Omits Vital Information

As we’ve mentioned here before, scientific research is only as good as the methodology used to gather data. For example, in a recent study linking coffee to a reduced stroke risk in women (posted here in March), researchers used basic observational information, thereby showing only association without proving cause and effect. And now, a new study of weight-loss plans again raises the caveat of “reader beware".

Consumer Reports, known for its unbiased product comparisons, found the Jenny Craig plan to work better than Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast and other popular diet programs – a judgment that was reported in many major newspapers and news websites. The magazine said it relied on the available scientific evidence in reaching its conclusions, according to The New York Times. That included a Journal of the American Medical Association study which found 92% of participating overweight and obese women followed the Jenny Craig program for two years, losing an average of 16 pounds in the process.

Pretty impressive. But what Consumer Reports failed to mention is that the women in the study got the whole program – which, with membership fees and food, runs about $6,600 – for free. While it may show that Jenny Craig works under optimal conditions, there seems little doubt that a person who had to pay for everything out of pocket would not achieve similar results.

Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor for Consumer Reports, said that medical research frequently pays participants for their services, and people who used Weight Watchers were similarly compensated for program fees (though not for food). Karen Miller-Kovach, chief science officer for Weight Watchers, countered that the magazine failed to put the JAMA study results in the proper context. Moreover, it ignored an earlier study that showed a 93% dropout rate for Jenny Craig after the first year.

None of this is to argue that one weight-loss program is better than another, or that such plans can’t be a useful resource for people battling the bulge. But it does demonstrate how studies can distort results or omit vital information, and why prospective customers need to do their homework before investing in such plans – especially when one considers that a doctor consultation, meal diary and pair of running shoes can often provide better results for much less money.

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