ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — A new study finds that weight loss programs can be more successful than just relying on a doctor to lose the extra pounds.

The study found that people who are enrolled in Weight Watchers lost as much weight on average as people who were guided by a medical professional.

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“Group-based weight-loss treatment produced weight loss, whether delivered by a professional or peer counselor,” Angela Marinilli Pinto, the study’s author and assistant professor of psychology at Baruch College of the City University of New York, told HealthDay. “When people are in a group with others on the same journey, they feel there is that element of, ‘OK, this worked for him or her, perhaps it will work for me. Perhaps I can give it a try.’”

The researchers took 141 overweight people and assigned them to three groups. One group got treatment from a health professional, the second participated in Weight Watchers and a third group got combined treatment.

At the conclusion of the study, the group led by the medical professionals lost an average of 11.9 pounds, the Weight Watchers group lost an average of 13.2 pounds and the combination group lost an average of 7.9 pounds.

“The losses in the Weight Watchers group were greater than the losses in the combined group,” Pinto told HealthDay. “The weight loss in the professionally led group didn’t differ statistically from either group.”

The researchers found that the people in the Weight Watchers group had a better chance to lose at least 10 percent of their beginning weight.

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“The Weight Watchers group produced better weight loss than this novel approach,” she added. “Better meeting attendance is associated with better weight loss.”

Pinto added that Weight Watchers usually costs about $10 a week while a doctor’s weight loss program costs about $10 to $35 a week.

“The cost of professionally led programs available to the public varies,” Pinto told HealthDay.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.9 percent of Americans, 20 years of age or older, are obese. An additional 33.3 percent are overweight.

The survey was published in the October 9th edition of the journal Obesity

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