Tackle obesity with low-calories shakes and soup diets, say researchers

A new study has recommended meal replacement diets should be rolled out across the NHS [Photo: Getty]

Doctors should put obese patients on a diet of meal replacement shakes and soups to help them lose weight, researchers have suggested.

The recommendation comes after a study, by Oxford University and published in the British Medical Journal, revealed that “total meal replacement diets”, helped participants shed and keep off more than a stone over a year.

For the trial 278 adults, all with a BMI of over 30, the threshold for obesity, were put either on a diet restricted to 810 calories a day plus regular sessions with a counsellor, or enrolled on a GP practice weight-management programme with a practice nurse giving advice.

After a year, those on the meal replacement plan had lost 1st 9lb on average. Those on the GP practice programme had lost on average 8lb.

Three times as many patients, 45%, saw their weight decrease by at least 10 per cent on the meal replacement programme, compared with 15 per cent of people on the other programme.

According to the study authors 38 per cent of participants continued to be part of the meal replacement scheme, paying for products and receiving support, even though it was only funded for six months. That compared to just 5 per cent of the group given GP support.

Meal replacement participants also showed greater reductions in their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Could meal replacement shakes help you lose weight? [Photo: Getty]

Commenting on the findings Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford University and the study’s lead author, said: “In the past we have worried that a short period of rapid weight loss may lead to rapid weight regain but this study shows that nine months after the intensive weight-loss phase, people have lost more than three times as much weight as people following a conventional programme.”

Now researchers are recommending that this kind of meal replacement and counselling plan could be rolled out across the NHS to tackle the obesity crisis.

Professor Paul Aveyard, a co-author of the paper, said: “This study shows that GP referral to a total diet replacement programme in the community is an effective intervention which GPs can confidently recommend, knowing that it leads to sustainable weight loss and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes.”

The recommendation comes after research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that the UK is now the third fattest nation in Europe.

Meanwhile earlier this year Elle Macpherson came under fire for advising meal replacement shakes. 

The 54-year-old supermodel was presenting a segment on ‘This Morning’ advising viewers about how to look better in swimwear.

As one of the tips, the mum-of-two explained that she swaps dinner for a protein shake and also removed “anything white” from her diet.

“Sometimes I’ll use it as a meal replacement in the evenings,” she continued.

“If I’ve had a really strong breakfast or a strong lunch I can get away with having a protein shake for dinner.”

The model went on to say that swapping shakes for proper meals should only be done occasionally and was only meant for targeted weight loss.

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