Very Low Calorie Diets
Obesity affects nearly one-third of adults in the United States, increasing their risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Traditional weight loss methods include low-calorie diets from 800 to 1,500 calories a day and regular physical activity. Health care providers sometimes consider an alternative method for bringing about significant short-term weight loss in patients who are moderately to extremely obese: the very-low-calorie diet.
What is a very-low-calorie diet (VLCD)?
have shown that meal replacements at higher calorie levels (800 -
1000 calories) produce weight loss similar to that seen with much lower
calorie levels, probably due to better compliance with the diet. In addition,
VLCDs are usually part of weight-loss treatment programs that include
other techniques such as behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling, physical
activity, and/or drug treatment.
should use a VLCD?
Use of VLCDs in patients with a BMI of 27 to 30 should be reserved for those who have medical complications resulting from their overweight. VLCDs are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. VLCDs are not appropriate for children or adolescents, except in specialized treatment programs.
Very little information exists regarding the use of VLCDs in older people. Because people over age 50 already experience normal depletion of lean body mass, use of a VLCD may not be warranted. Also, people over 50 may not tolerate the side effects associated with VLCDs because of preexisting medical conditions or need for other medications. Physicians must evaluate on a case-by-case basis the potential risks and benefits of rapid weight loss in older individuals, as well as in people with significant medical problems or who are on medications.
benefits of a VLCD
effects of a VLCD
For most people who are obese, obesity is a long-term condition that requires a lifetime of attention even after formal weight loss treatment ends. Therefore, health care providers should encourage patients who are obese to commit to permanent changes of healthier eating, regular physical activity, and an improved outlook about food.
Endnote: This fact sheet is an updated, modified version of a previously published review article appearing in the August 25, 1993 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Both the review article and this fact sheet were developed with the advice of the National Task Force on Prevention and Treatment of Obesity.
Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) (www.niddk.nih.gov)
Last Editorial Review: 10/11/2004