Meal Replacement
Programs


Introduction to meal replacement programs

Effective weight loss strategies are needed to help overweight and obese people lose weight and maintain weight loss in the long term. Meal replacements for weight loss have become popular for helping many people successfully start losing weight.  


Why lose weight?

Obesity is an important condition and causes significant health problems. These can be lifelong and many result in a poorer quality of life. People who are overweight or obese show increased rates of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, some cancer and arthritis amongst other conditions. The term obese is assigned to a male individual who weighs 20% or more over the maximum desirable for a man’s height. In females the term obese is assigned to individuals who weigh 25% or more over the maximum desirable for a woman’s height. Obesity is also defined as a BMI (body mass index) over 30 kg/m2. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight by your height squared.

The formula for calculating your body mass index is:
BMI = weight (kilograms) / (height (metres) * height (metres))

For example:
A man who weighs 85 kilograms and is 1.8 metres tall would have a BMI of
BMI = 85 / (1.8 * 1.8)
BMI = 85 / 3.24
BMI = 26.2


Losing weight with meal replacement programs

Specially formulated meal replacements have been used worldwide for a long time as treatments against the rising rates of obesity and disorders associated with obesity. In many research studies, meal replacement programs have been associated with successful weight loss.


The theory behind meal replacement programs

To lose weight we need to take in fewer calories than our body needs. When this happens, we draw on our fat stores to provide us with the extra energy we require to function properly. In the long term, this means we lose fat, and in turn lose weight. These programs work by replacing meals per day with specialised formula food, which are a complete meal. Meal replacement programs combine a meal replacement regimen with additional health supports such as physiotherapists.

The program is a combination of LCD (Low Calorie Diet) and the natural process of ketosis. Ketosis happens after 48 hours when body detects that it doesn’t have getting enough carbohydrates to operate as it usually does. The body therefore ‘switches over’ to a different method of providing fuel for itself – your fat stores.

Formulated meal replacements take various forms, including powders, drinks, soups, bars and biscuits. Some products are designed to replace all meals whilst others are designed to replace only one or two meals per day. The formulas contain adequate vitamins and minerals.

Meal replacement products are always very low in fat and often have added fibre. A good meal replacement program provides extensive educational material and recipes to educate people about healthy eating and lifestyle habits.


How safe are meal replacement programs?

Major health organisations with an interest in helping the public to lose weight now suggest meal replacements are a suitable option for some people. Organisations such as the National Obesity Forum, the British Dietetic Association and Dietitians in Obesity Management UK believe meal replacements offer an alternative to other more conventional dietary treatments and may prove beneficial for some people. Meal replacements have been shown to be part of a successful therapeutic approach to weight loss especially when used in combination with lifestyle and diet education and professional support.

The first line of therapy for weight loss is a healthy diet (which provides appropriate energy) and regular physical activity. For people who have not achieved success with these first line therapies, meal replacements are an option to add to their regime. A healthy diet plan including meal replacements may result in the success they have been striving for. As well as cutting calories in a controlled way, many nutrition experts also think meal replacement diets are effective because they offer a structured plan and are the ultimate convenience food as they require little or no preparation or cooking. Furthermore, they take away the ‘pressure’ of deciding what to eat for two meals each day, yet still allow an element of choice for one meal.


Advantages of meal replacement programs

Many people like meal replacement products because they are convenient, they take away the need to think about food during the day. The meals are strictly portion controlled. Meals are usually designed to be filling, reducing hunger between meals. Furthermore meal replacement diets are advantageous as the amount of calories in each portion has already been calculated. This makes it easier to keep energy intake down leading to greater success with weight loss.


Disadvantages of meal replacement programs

Many people who enjoy cooking or preparing food may find the program too disciplined. In addition there is a limited amount of variety available when consuming whole foods. The flavours can also be limited and many people who are lactose intolerant may find that some sachets/shakes are milk/skimmed milk based.

 

References

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, NHMRC Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2003
  2. Egger G., Editorial, ‘Are meal replacements an effective tool for weight loss’, MJA 2006 Vol 184:2 52-53
  3. Dieticians Association of Australia, http://www.daa.asn.au/index.asp?PageID=2145834478, 20th December 2006
  4. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Australia New Zealand food standards code. Available at: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au (accessed Sep 2005)
  5. Heymsfield SB, van Mierlo CA, van der Knaap HC, Heo M, Frier HI., Weight management using a meal replacement strategy: meta and pooling analysis from six studies. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 May;27(5):537-49.
  6. Clifton PM, Noakes M, Keogh J, Foster P. How effective are meal replacements for treating obesity?, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12 Suppl:S51.
  7. Flechtner-Mors M., Ditschnueit HH., Johnson TT. et.al., Metabolic and weight loss effects of long-term dietary intervention in obese patients: Four-year results. Obes Res. 2000;8:399-402.
  8. Winick C, Rothacker DQ, Norman RL. Four worksite weight loss programs with high-stress occupations using a meal replacement product. Occup Med (Lond) 2002; 52: 25-30.
  9. Metz JA, Stern JS, Kris-Etherton P, Reusser ME, Morris CD, Hatton DC et al. A randomized trial of improved weight loss with a prepared meal plan in overweight and obese patients: impact on cardiovascular risk reduction. Arch Intern Med 2000;160(14):2150-8
  10. Wadden TA, Stunkard AJ, Liebschutz J. Three-year follow-up of the treatment of obesity by very low calorie diet, behavior therapy, and their combination. J Consult Clin Psychol 1988;56(6):925-8.
  11. Ashley JM, St Jeor ST, Schrage JP, Perumean-Chaney SE, Gilbertson MC, McCall NL et al. Weight control in the physician’s office. Arch Intern Med 2001;161(13):1599-604.
  12. Noakes M., Foster PR., Keogh JB., Clifton, PM., Meal Replacements Are as Effective as Structured Weight-Loss Diets for Treating Obesity in Adults with Features of Metabolic Syndrome, J. Nutr. 134: 1894-1899, 2004.