A new study has claimed that attending periodical sessions of weight loss programs in groups can benefit overweight or obese people and reduce risk of diabetes.
Researchers found that after a 6-month Weight Watchers group program, overweight or obese adults who attended at least 66 per cent of the weekly sessions, not only lost weight, but also significantly reduced glucose and insulin levels - important indicators of diabetes risk.
The program included education on a low calorie diet, exercise and weekly group support sessions.
The fact that participants who attended regularly improved the most only reinforces the importance of group therapy.
"We know that previous research programs have successfully reduced diabetes risk using intensive lifestyle treatment," said Kathleen Melanson, study co-author.
"But what we didn't know is that a program that costs appreciably much less than specially-designed diabetes prevention programs would have a profound impact on the same risk factors for type 2 diabetes. These findings could have important public health potential," Melanson added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the total cost of treatment of diabetes in the United States exceeds 200 billion dollars, making treatment and prevention a priority for healthcare experts.
Experts say that individual lifestyle interventions could reduce the risk of developing diabetes by more than fifty percent.
Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International, said: "Individual lifestyle intervention is obviously successful in reducing the risk for diabetes, but it comes at a high cost, and may not be realistic for all Americans."
"We're encouraged that the Weight Watchers program, already successful for helping millions of Americans lose weight, could also have the potential to reduce disease risk and even help reduce healthcare burden, for as little as about forty dollars per month, per person."
The study will be published in this month's American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.