Weight Watchers shares saw an 18 percent increase on Friday, and it wasn’t because of Oprah. The company issued a press release detailing findings of a “new randomized controlled study” conducted at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, “found that adults with prediabetes who followed a nationally-available weight management program with a prediabetes-specific component, Weight Watchers, lost significantly more weight and experienced better blood glucose control than those following a self-initiated program using supplemental counseling materials.”
These findings suggesting Weight Watchers as a viable treatment for prediabetes is great for the company, however the legitimacy of the study is being called into question as the release details that the study was funded by Weight Watchers International, Inc.
Though this practice of private industries funding research which produces positive findings for the company is not uncommon, David Ludwig, Harvard Medical School professor , says, “[I]t doesn’t mean that it’s good scientific practice.” Ludwig continues, “We found that if a food company sponsored a research study, the outcomes were four to eight times more likely to be more favorable to that company’s interests than if the study was independently funded.”