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Very Low Calorie Diets: Are they safe?

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The traditional way to lose weight is to opt for a low calorie diet which allows between 800 to 1500 calories a day with regular exercise. But there is an alternative for moderate to severely obese people which could significantly increase their weight loss in the short term by a very low calorie diet (or VLCD).

The majority of very low calorie diets and prepared formulas are 800 calories or less per day, the diet replacement ‘meals’ will take the place all usual food eaten.

Are VLCD’s effective?

An average moderate to obese person would lose roughly 3 to 5 pounds a week by opting for a very low calorie diet. This amount of weight loss can really improve obesity related medical conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 Diabetes. Studies have shown that VLCD’s are no more effective than the normal dietary restrictions when it comes to maintaining your reduced weight in the long term, as many people pile on the pounds when they stop doing the diet.

Very low calorie dieting

Are there side effects to very low calorie diets?

VLCD’s are generally safe when used with medical supervision in people with a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30. People with a BMI of 27 to 30 should only use VLCD’s if they have a medical complication that would benefit from weight loss, this should be carried out with the supervision of their GP. Very low calorie diets are not suitable for everyone including pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children.

Common minor side effects from the diet can include fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea and constipation. Not everyone gets these side effects of course and they usually subside a few weeks into the diet. The most serious side-effects are gallstone formation, this is a frequent development in overweight people and is more common during periods of rapid weight loss.


If you want to be healthy you need to maintain a balanced diet from a different range of food groups. Good nutrition is vital and it can be difficult to find in an 800 calorie meal plan even when taking additional supplements. If you stray from your diet it’s likely you will regain your weight unless you change your lifestyle. You can do this by committing to healthy eating and taking part in regular exercise.

Of course some people have done amazingly well on the very low calorie diets, it has enabled them to slim down enough to give them the confidence to get to the gym and get fit. It’s really not all negative, the rapid weight loss spurs people along as they are seeing such a big difference in themselves and a huge difference on the scales too. If you are interested in starting one of the very low calories diets have a chat either with your GP or find one of the reputable diet companies that have their own counsellors to see if it is something you would like to try.





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