Commercial Products and Programs in Obesity Management

  • The commercial weight loss industry is enormous. Clini­cians should familiarize themselves with the commercial obesity management offerings in their vicinity. Criteria have been published to evaluate whether a commercial program is safe and potentially successful (i.e., offering a combination of nutrition, physical activity and behaviour change support; with realistic weight loss goals of 0.5–1.0 kg per week, a long-term weight maintenance approach; a good safety profile and reasonable costs).
  • None of the weight loss products from the commercial industry that were studied in randomized control trials of more than 12 weeks duration were shown to produce clin­ically meaningful weight loss.
  • Some commercial programs that combine nutrition, physical activity and support (Jenny Craig®, Nutrisystem®, Optifast®, WW® (formerly Weight Watchers) can be used to induce modest weight loss. Some programs have also shown im­provement in glycemic control in patients with obesity and diabetes but no effect on lipids or blood pressure have been demonstrated.
  1. For adults living with overweight or obesity, the following commercial programs should achieve mild to moderate weight loss over the short or medium-term, compared to usual care or education:1
    1. WW® (Weight Watchers): (Level 1A, Grade A)
    2. Optifast®: (Level 1B, Grade B)
    3. Jenny Craig® (Level 1B, Grade B)
    4. Nutrisystem Inc. (Level 1B, Grade B)
  2. Optifast®, Jenny Craig®, WW® (formerly Weight Watchers) and Nutrisystem Inc. should achieve a mild reduction of gly­cated hemoglobin values over a short-term period compared to usual counselling in adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes (Level 1B, Grade B).
  3. We do not recommend the use of over-the-counter com­mercial weight loss products for obesity management, owing to lack of evidence (Level 4, Grade D).
  4. We do not suggest that commercial weight-loss programs be used for improvement in blood pressure and lipid control in adults living with obesity (Level 4, Grade D).
  • The commercial weight loss industry is flourishing and is often characterized by unrealistic advertising. Before ad­hering to a commercial program or using a commercial weight loss product, people with obesity should ensure that the approach is safe and potentially effective (a combi­nation of nutrition, physical activity and behaviour change support, realistic weight loss goals of 0.5–1.0 kg per week, a long-term weight maintenance approach; a good safety profile and reasonable costs).
  • People living with obesity should be leery of weight loss programs that: i) promise weight loss with­out diet or exercise; ii) promise weight loss while eating as much food as you want; iii) Promise reduction of weight from particular locations on the body; iv) promise overly rapid loss (for example: losing 30 pounds in 30 days); or v) Include before and after photos and personal endorsements that seem too good to be true).
  • Many natural weight loss products are available without a prescription but none of these have been proven to provide clinically meaningful weight loss in high-quality scientific studies.
  • Some commercial programs (WW® [formerly Weight Watchers], Optifast®, Jenny Craig®, Nutrisystem Inc.) have been shown to be effective to produce modest weight loss. These are not successful in all people but are generally con­sidered safe.

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