Meal Replacements for Weight Loss

Diabetics Lose Twice as Much Weight With Food Supplement Study Reveals

By Stathis Denou, PhD

Medifast meal replacement package

As the obesity rate for all Americans keeps increasing, the high numbers are also reflected in the type 2 diabetes population. About 66% of Americans are considered overweight with half ranked as obese. For type 2 diabetics, the percentages increase to 70% labeled as overweight and 33% of that number as obese. It has long been noted that weight is related to type 2 diabetes. Losing as little as 2% body weight has proven to improve conditions for type 2 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetics experience more of a challenge in weight loss than obese people who do not have the disease.

A recent study conducted at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Baltimore, Maryland, by Lawrence Cheskin and his group, compared the effect of meal replacements versus a standard food-based diet on weight loss in type 2 diabetics. The objective of the controlled clinical trial was to examine the potential for weight loss validity for participants using a food supplement diet.

The subjects were randomly assigned to two groups. One group used pre-measured food supplements compared to the second group who followed a weight loss diet using standard foods recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The groups consisted of both men and women with BMI numbers ranging between 25 and 40. The lower number indicates an overweight person and progresses to the obese label as the number increases. A minimum 5% weight loss for obese participants and the ability to maintain the loss was the desired goal.

Can Meal Replacements Help Diabetics Lose Weight?

The group members using a food supplement were prescribed Medifast Plus for Diabetes in portion controlled amounts. The supplement is made from soy product and has a low sugar rate and glycemic index. Both diets had the same energy deficit food plan of 25% and both were equal in calories.

After 34 weeks on the original diets for each group, dieters on the food supplement changed. The supplement group was divided in half with one part remaining on the supplement and the other group eating the standard food diet for 26 weeks. After that time, the two switched. By the end of the 52 week period, all members of the original group using the supplement experienced similar caloric intake. All prescribed diets contained similar nutrient value with similar carbohydrates, protein and fat content. The groups adjusted to a 10% calorie reduction to sustain weight loss. All the calories permitted for the standard diet group came from whole foods using exchanges for the ADA list. Approximately 50-60% of allowed calories for the supplement users came in the form of the supplement.

Meal Replacement Diet Shows Advantage Over Standard Diet

As far as weight loss was concerned, both groups managed to achieve lower BMI stats after the initial 34 week period. Interestingly, the group using the food replacement achieved significantly lower BMI numbers than the standard food dieters. At 60 weeks significant weight loss by participants using the supplement was maintained while those on the standard diet showed no significance weight loss maintenance.  The members of the supplement groups also managed lower fasting blood glucose and triglyceride levels whereas the standard dieters showed no significant change.

The two groups were also tested for hemoglobin HbA1c. The levels of this protein tell us how effectively glucose in controlled in our body. Glucose in diabetic patients is considered under adequate control if HbA1c  is less than 7%. Almost 75% in the supplement group managed adequate control of type 2 diabetes (HbA1c less than 7%), compared to only 35% in the standard diet.

Waist and hip measurements shrunk considerably for both groups. Food supplement users went down 6.5cm at the waist and 4.1cm for hips. The standard food dieters reduced waist size by 4.9cm and hips by 1. cm. Cholesterol and blood pressure readings, as well as areas concerning satisfaction with the diets, appetite control and depression showed similar results between the two groups.

Easier To Follow – Less Medication

The categories of retention and medication showed a significant difference between the two study groups. After the 34-week weight loss phase, the diet supplement group kept 57% of its participants in the study while the standard diet group retained only 29% of their original participants. Members of the supplement group were able to significantly reduce dependence on prescribed medication to control the disease while no members in the other group were able to reduce medications.

Meal Replacements: A Useful Tool To Control Type 2 Diabetes

Based on these findings, Cheskin and colleagues conclude that food replacement appears to be a valid diet option to control type 2 diabetes. During the course of the clinical trial, many improvements were noted within the group prescribed to use the food supplement diet. Most notably more participants stayed with the diet supplement program and lost more weight than the standard diet group. Many dieters using the supplements were able to discontinue medication. Similar results were documented by other studies, further supporting the possibility of food supplements as a type 2 diabetes management tool.

One of the biggest factors indicating success for participants on the food supplement diet was the overall improvement to quality of life. The average supplement dieter noted a 27% increase in areas involving more energy and better physical movement, combined with improved finances as fewer medications and treatment was required for their illness.

The above work was presented in the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association. Although it was supported by a grant from Medifast, Inc, a meal replacement company, none of the authors had a financial interest in the products used in this study.

A postdoctoral fellow at Saint Louis University, Stathis Denou closely follows the scientific progress in the area of diet and nutrition and offers a discount for Medifast.

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