An artificial diet especially formulated to replace food eaten at a normal meal. Meal replacement diets are designed to replace one or two meals per day as part of a calorie controlled diet. They usually come in the form of milkshakes, soups, biscuits, bars, and drinks. Most are made from sugar and milk, and contain a filler or bulking agent (e.g. plant fibre or gum; see guar gum) which helps you to feel full, as well as sufficient vitamins and minerals to meet or exceed requirements. Some manufacturers claim that the cellulose they use as a filler also reduces appetite. This claim has not been substantiated to the satisfaction of the food authorities in the United States, who have banned the use of cellulose in over-the-counter diet products. Some meal replacement diets incorporate additional substances that are claimed to aid weight loss, for example, by reducing appetite or increasing metabolism.
Meal replacement diets may be effective if used properly because they provide fewer calories per day than the average person requires to maintain weight. It is, however, important to follow the instructions carefully and include real meals in your eating plan. A major criticism of most meal replacement diets is that they do not help overweight people adopt good eating habits that would enable them to maintain weight loss without continually returning to the diet.
Some meal replacement diets that include fillers or bulking agents are not suitable for certain groups of people (e.g. those with high blood pressure) because they may cause problems similar to those caused by very low calorie diets (e.g. fatigue and heart irregularities). Many of the problems seem to be due to dehydration associated with consuming the fillers and bulking agents. The problems can be avoided by drinking plenty of water. You are, nevertheless, advised to consult your doctor before starting a meal replacement diet. Remember, doctors do not recommend diets of less than 1000 Calories per day without medical supervision. See also formula diet.
Subjects: Medicine and Health.