The Two Mainstream Diet Plans That Actually Work, According to Science

04/15/2015 at 03:15 PM ET

weight loss

Diets really do work. Well, some popular weight loss programs actually live up to their promise, and help people drop a modest amount of weight—and keep it off for at least a year—according to a just-published review in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers, led by Johns Hopkins University, looked at 45 studies that examined 11 commercial weight-loss programs. The most effective plans: Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers.

“Out of all the programs we examined, only Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig achieved a significant weight loss that was sustained for 12 months in multiple studies,” says study author Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. (The study was funded by government grants, not by makers of the diet plans.)

After a year, people on Weight Watchers had lost 2.6% more body weight compared to a control group that received counseling, while those following Jenny Craig dropped 4.9% more than the control group. “Because your starting weight can affect the amount of pounds you lose, the medical community focuses on percentage of weight lost to even the playing field,” Dr. Gudzune says. “In the studies, this translated to an average weight loss at 12 months of at least 8 pounds for Weight Watchers participants and at least 15 pounds for Jenny Craig participants. Keep in mind that your expected weight loss with these programs may be higher or lower depending on your starting weight.”

The researchers weren’t surprised that the two programs were effective. Both include social support (like coaching), structure, and frequent contact and counseling sessions, which have long been known to help people lose weight, Dr. Gudzune says. (Jenny Craig also includes prepared meals.)

Nutrisystem also showed promise—it helped dieters lose 3.8% more weight at 3 months compared to controls—but Dr. Gudzune and her colleagues want to see how dieters are doing at the one-year mark. “Our goal is for people to lose weight and keep it off to help control blood pressure, prevent the development of diabetes, and improve cholesterol,” she says.

Meanwhile, the Atkins Diet showed mixed results. People had lost 6.8% more weight than the control group at the 6-month mark, but ultimately achieved just 0.1% to 2.9% greater weight loss at 12 months. Health Management Resources, OPTIFAST, and SlimFast—very-low-calorie meal replacement plans—showed swift weight loss in the first three months, but more research is needed to determine whether dieters can keep that weight off in the long run. And self-directed, internet-based programs like the Biggest Loser Club, eDiets, and LoseIt! were found to be no more effective than the control group.

Though Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig were clearly more successful than the other nine diets studied, they both have a potential drawback: Cost. Jenny Craig costs $570 a month, while Weight Watchers is $43 a month. The other programs studied aren’t cheap, either: they ranged in price from free to $682 a month.

Before you’re shocked, consider what’s included in the cost, says Dr.Gudzune. While Weight Watchers gives you the online platform and group sessions, you have to purchase your own food. On the other hand, Jenny Craig comes with counseling sessions and all the food you eat for the month. In this case, thinking about your usual monthly grocery budget can help you determine if the cost is worth it for you. Plus, some programs might be covered by health insurance, partially funded by employers, or eligible for flexible spending accounts. Now, don’t you feel good about getting with the program?

—Jessica Migala

Get healthy now with energizing moves, easy recipes, expert tips and tools, and advice on losing weight and feeling great. Find out how to manage conditions like diabetes and depression, stop allergies, prevent heart attacks, and more.

FILED UNDER: Expert Tips , Health

Share this story:

Your reaction:

Add A Comment reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 34 comments

Jonas on

Hello friends figure fitness is vary important in this modern age. Many people stay tense about his/her fitness.It is a big challenge for us that we will try to heard to control our fitness but some people can few control and many of them people was failed to maintain their fitness. and i was fall in this fitness problem it was embarrassment for me any time and any where . I can’t control my diet it was out of control in my hand then my friend give me some suggestion about how to control diet then he give me one site name that was this taring site is really helpful for me is really worked now i am free for this disgusting matter just follow their instruction and now i am a happy man . Every of men or women can try this and it will be really helpful . Try it

Patricia Linda on

I agree with you. there are a lot of ways of weight loss problem. mainly its depend her habits. actually i was feeling tension then my friend suggest me that do not excited. then,i tried control my habit and i was succeed. if you want to follow my advice,you must be visit this sites.

Flo on

Do the ELM diet. :: eat less , move more.

Karen on

Jenny Craig does not include all the food you eat. You still need to purchase milk, yogurt, salad ingredients, vegetables, and fruits for every day. I was successful with Jenny Craig, but I wanted to correct the error in the story.

Trish on

I have used weight watchers and it does indeed work, the only element I find missing is nutritional details.
I have been using the app which is great for understanding and learning the intricacies of nutrition, something that is important to me.
Coupled with exercise: weight and cardio works for me.

Kel on

Weight Watchers rocks because you learn how to eat forever, not eat prepackaged foods. I think thats why the majority dont work, people need to learn to change their way of eating, not just the location that they buy the boxes of food. They teach you life skills that work whether your at a restaurant, event, or home. Thats what makes the success.

Oranges on

Why is there no way to flag responses? Jonas and Patricia Linda are clearly spam or worse yet links to virus downloads.

I have a friend who lost 90 lbs on weight watchers. And she has kept it off for 2 + years now. Really it is not a diet though, you can’t go back to the way you used to eat ever. You need to change your eating habits permanently if you want to keep the weight off.

AdvoCare Tabie on

Guess no one has ever heard of AdvoCare!!

Danie on

No temporary diet will have long term results. I’ve been on the Banting “diet” for over two years, and it has now become my permanent lifestyle. I went down from 85kg to 70kg (mostly lost in the first 3 to 5 months) and have stayed at 70-73kg ever since. Yes if I go back to eating refined carbs and sugars I’d fully expect to pick up weight again, but the rewards so far mean I have extremely little temptation of ever doing that again.

Food Addicts on

I tried everything to loose weight but nothing worked. I kept loosing and gaining the same 60lbs over and over again and eventually reached 240lbs! I then found a free, 12-step program for food addiction ( and have maintained a 120 weight loss for over 11 years. Even more, I no longer constantly crave food and my obsessions with my body and weight are gone. I am so grateful!

more tips here on

, a leading Japanese mobile content entity reaching into the global market with their social networking platform mobion, released today globally the mobion Share Free i – Phone, Android and Windows phone application. From the space sim X-wing to the innovative RTS Empire at War, there was always something new for every Star Wars fan. It simply projects the idea of being able to provide service without restrictions in terms of location.
more tips here

Click Here on

To make sure your computer is ready for the game you are interested in, go to an online store that carries the game, look at its software and hardware requirement details. Breakout Voyager, made by Stian Thomassen based on Breakout, is a classic retro style breakout game with a bunch of falling balls. Your objective is to eliminate these monsters and escape the ship.
Click Here

anchor on

I was pretty sad when I got to the Namco Bandai booth however and found out they only brought their fighting games to be played there, which I didn’t bother to try. PC games take you away from your real life miseries and give you complete peace of mind. The overall game is based on strategy and has good graphics, courtesy of the Unreal Engine.

Venita Goodchild on

You have brought up a very fantastic points , appreciate it for the post.

Pete Loil on

You are my aspiration , I possess few web logs and very sporadically run out from to post : (.

Kieth Mcleon on

I have read so many posts on the topic of the blogger lovers but this post is genuinely a nice piece of writing, keep it up.|

Lissette Bausley on

Only a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great design. “Make the most of your regrets… . To regret deeply is to live afresh.” by Henry David Thoreau.

Jerri Daughety on

I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site :).

Caren Lindert on

You are my inspiration , I own few web logs and occasionally run out from to brand.

Snowman panasonic air conditioning on

This writing gives a clear idea for the new visitors how to blog. Well done!

ducted heating on

Heya I am a newbie to your website. I found this page and it is really informative. I wish to give something back.

Snowman evaporative cooler installation on

Like every bit of your article. Thanks again.

Emerson Saephan on

What i don’t realize is actually how you are not actually much more well-liked than you might be right now. You are so intelligent. You realize therefore considerably relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it’s one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

best public relations on

You have a number of great points there. How could any of this be better stated? It could not. You always know just what to say. My girlfriend wants to be a mentor in this topic someday.

Jesse Grillo on

No complaints on this end, simply a great piece. You seem to really know who you are. Your blog has a certian aura about it. It is rare to see a nice post like this one these days.

Jesse Grillo on

It is like you read my thoughts! It is like you wrote the book on it or something. I really like your posts. I have added your article to my Google bookmarks Well this is weird, your site was loaded when I opened my lap top.

more tips here on

I prefer to look on the brighter side of things which I’m sure you can appreciate.

redondo beach on

You have a great sense of humor. I simply must tell you that I really like your posts article. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the web might be a lot more helpful than ever before. I was going for a jog on Monday when I discovered your blog. Thanks again.

Vidya Goswami on

I must say you had done a tremendous job,I appreciate all your efforts.

health franchise opportunities on

I’m really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues? A number of my blog visitors have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

Buyer Leads on

I am really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems? A small number of my blog audience have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any tips to help fix this problem?

franchise opportunities in charleston sc on

I am really enjoying the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog audience have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

qsr franchise opportunities on

Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and may come back at some point. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great work, have a nice afternoon!

Sales Leads on

At this time it looks like Expression Engine is the best blogging platform out there right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters