Very Low Calorie Diets- Are They Really Dangerous?

Very low calorie diets, otherwise known as VLCD’s, have been a source of controversy and speculation among the general population, Doctors and nutritionists for decades.

Much of the controversy surrounding VLCD’s has been the fact that so called “experts” often say that these diets lead to health issues, a rebound in weight gain and potentially harmful side effects.

Let’s be clear about one thing, it is widely accepted that the best methods to losing weight include a gradual progression of weight loss which includes gradual calorie reduction and an active lifestyle which may include weight lifting, running or any other fitness program a few times per week.

But what if the dieter falls into the obese category? What if they want to lose a significant amount of weight up front and then move into a more gradual and maintainable program?

With all the doubts that exist it is important to discuss the potential positive effects of a VLCD program as they pertain to people trying to lose weight quickly?

VLCD’s and Health

One of the major talking points from VLCD detractors is that a VLCD can cause severe health risks. While this may be true many ailments are caused by a vitamin or nutrient deficiency. Adding a multi vitamin and/or a potassium supplement may help combat any health issues that result in deficiencies in the diet. Furthermore, some studies have shown that a short term VLCD may actually improve some conditions, like diabetes, such as shown in this study by the Diabetes Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. In this case study 14 diabetic, insulin dependent, obese patients were on a 425 calorie per day diet for 4 weeks and at the conclusion 7 of these patients were able to cease use of insulin all together. Even those that were not able to cease using insulin were able to lose weight, drop waist circumference and lower cholesterol levels.

VLCD’s and Sustainable Results

Another point of contention is that when it comes to a VLCD that all the weight and then some will simply return once the calories return to normal. This is the most absurd argument of any and all that exists regarding these types of diets. Anytime someone stops being responsible with their eating habits and their fitness routines weight gains is the side effect. One cannot go to the gym for 6 months, eat 4-5 clean meals a day and then believe they will stay fit if they suddenly stop would they? Then why do people think that going from a VLCD back to normal bad habits would result in anything different. The key is once the VLCD is over to go to a moderate calorie diet and start working out 3 days per week. In fact UCLA has data regarding the positive effects of a VLCD here. UCLA noted that three years after ceasing a VLCD program that 60% of patients maintained their weight loss.

The Skinny on VLCD’s

There are many types of VLCD’s to pick from such as the doctor supervised examples posted above, the Dr Simeons protocol which also supplements the hormone HCG with their protocol or even some commercial diets sold online for public consumption.  The important thing to remember is do your own research, check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough for a VLCD and last but not least, take in all sides of the argument before you make a decision.

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Pete Kontakos is a husband, father, MMA and amateur wrestling enthusiast who enjoys writing about a variety of topics including health, wellness and sports.