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UBC researchers to weigh in on commercial weight loss option

Associate Professor of psychology Lesley Lutes has been awarded $1.7 million to study a commercial weight loss program.

Associate Professor of psychology Lesley Lutes has been awarded $1.7 million to study a commercial weight loss program.

Weight Watchers Freestyle food program going under the microscope

UBC Okanagan’s Lesley Lutes is leading an evaluation Weight Watchers Freestyle, a new commercial weight management protocol. Lutes, an associate professor of psychology in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, has researchers examining the program from UBC Okanagan and Vancouver.

“The rates of obesity in Canada are relentlessly rising,” says Lutes. “Despite efforts to slow this trend, currently two-thirds of Canadians are overweight or obese.”

With obesity comes many commercial options to help people lose weight. Last year, researchers at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) conducted a study examining the Weight Watchers Freestyle food program. This program operates with a combination of community meetings and online services.

An extension of this research has now been proposed for an international study. The team has been awarded $1.7 million to run a randomized controlled trial through both UBC campuses (Okanagan and the Vancouver campus—led by Associate Prof. Tricia Tang), the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and UNC.

The controlled trial will compare physiological and psychosocial health outcomes related to Weight Watchers Freestyle and a “do-it-yourself” approach, explains Lutes. Applicants will be randomly placed into either group and all participants will receive a free year of Weight Watchers programming along with a small honorarium for completing baseline, three-month and 12-month measures.

Lutes stresses that unhealthy weight can lead to many other health complications and can influence the incidence and severity of multiple co-morbid illnesses.

“In the last four years alone, Canadians have experienced higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, pain and discomfort that has prevented them from being active,” she adds. “Relatedly, they perceive their lives as more stressful, their mental health as worse than ever and the rates of mood disorders have climbed.”

Lutes says they are looking for study participants to begin early next month. People are welcome to visit www.weightlosstrial.org for details and information on how to take part in the initial screening procedure.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.



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