Meal Replacements – What Really Works?

Meal Replacement diet plans have been around for a long time. Medifast is a popular plan, but how well does it work?

The research and development team at Medifast, Inc. conducted a clinical trial of 90 obese adults over the course of 40 weeks to answer this question. They were put into two groups; one group used the Medifast meal replacement system and the control group used a reduced calorie, food-based diet. The study’s aim was to measure both weight loss and any changes in the biomarkers for inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation and oxidative stress have been shown to underlie many common chronic health conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Both groups were put on a weight loss regimen for 16 weeks followed by a 24 week period of maintenance.

Participants in both groups were advised that increasing activity to levels higher than that of their normal daily activity was not necessary. The control group was advised to take a multi-vitamin to supplement any vitamins and minerals their reduced calorie diet lacked. The Medifast group did not need to take a vitamin because the meal replacements are fortified with essential nutrients.

At the conclusion of the first 16 weeks, participants on the Medifast plan had lost twice as much weight as those in the control group. Those on Medifast also reduced their BMI (body mass index) by twice as much as the control group. It should also be noted that 93% of those on the Medifast plan lost significant amounts of weight, which is twice the rate demonstrated in clinical trials of currently approved pharmaceuticals for weight loss.

After the 24 week maintenance period, those on the Medifast diet had gained more weight back than those in the control group but still maintained a lower weight overall. BMI at the end of 24 weeks was also lower in the Medifast group than the control.

Researchers found significant improvements in both inflammation and oxidative stress after 40 weeks in the Medifast group compared to the control group. Improvements were seen only in the Medifast group with regard to diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference, and oxidative stress. Concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indication of inflammation in the body, were also significantly reduced in the Medifast participants as opposed to the control group. This was especially true for those who had high levels of CRP at the beginning of the trial.

Lean muscle mass is very important for weight maintenance. The Medifast participants lost five times more body fat while maintaining twice the lean muscle mass as the control group. One explanation for this is that the Medifast group was able to manage their nutrient intake and its composition (low fat, low carbohydrate, higher protein) without difficulty as the meal replacements are fortified and their composition predetermined. It is difficult to achieve this balance when eating a calorie restricted, food based diet as the control group did.

It is interesting to note that participants in both groups reported the same level of satiety or fullness. Many people think of meal replacements as something less than a regular meal; it is thought of almost the same way as not eating at all. Fortunately, today’s meal replacements have the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and calories to keep you feeling full longer.

Meal replacement plans, specifically Medifast, have been proven to be an effective weight loss tool. The Medifast program, with its nutrient rich, portion controlled products, provides an effective weight loss tool that improves important health factors. Study participants using this method lost twice the weight as those in the control group. They also saw significant improvements in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, which are precursors for many health problems.

If you are looking to lose weight quickly, maintain it, and improve your overall health, the Medifast plan provides and easy to follow, nutritious option.

Reference: Lisa M Davis, Christopher Coleman, Jessica Kiel et al. Nutrition Journal. 2010;9:11

Study can be found at:

Meal Replacement for Weight Loss