Weight loss – dieting for a year show weight loss can be maintained!

CWP 2016 choc shake and sachet port RGBExperts have welcomed newly published research that shows how weight loss can be maintained, without dieters inevitably regaining their original weight, by dieting for a year.

They say the breakthrough study by the University of Copenhagen into hormonal adaptions to weight loss sheds light on how weight loss with formula diets may help address the UK’s escalating diabetes and obesity problem, by showing it takes 12 months of dieting before the body’s chemicals change and a new weight can be permanently maintained.

The study showed that healthy, but obese, people put on a Cambridge Weight Plan 810 calorie formula diet for eight weeks lost 13 percent of their weight and kept the weight off after a 52 week maintenance formula diet.

The study looked at hormonal changes associated with effective long-term weight loss and feelings of fullness and allowed researchers new insights into the complex processes involved in obesity and especially weight loss in obesity.

Researchers in Denmark have found that obese people who had shed an eighth of their weight on an intensive diet and then kept it off for a year saw dramatic changes in the chemicals governing their appetites.

Professor Leeds, medical director of Cambridge Weight Plan said: “This shows for the first time that if enough weight is lost and kept off for long enough then the body seems to adjust to the lower weight and does not fight to try to regain it.

“This has very important implications for considering the use of formula diet programmes in community settings and GP practices as a way to combat obesity.”

“Since we now have good evidence that people can lose about ten percent of their body weight, usually about one and a half stone, and maintain that, it helps to have evidence that explains how weight loss is maintained.”

“Weight maintenance can be achieved by a permanent change in diet and eating behaviour and by physical activity, but not everyone can do this using conventional diet and keep the weight off, so this study reinforces the value of formula diets.”

Shake-Chocolate Mint-NEWAssociate Professor Signe Sørensen Torekov from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, said: “The interesting and uplifting news in this study is that if you are able to maintain your weight loss for a longer period of time, it seems as if you have ‘passed the critical point’, and after this point, it will actually become easier for you to maintain your weight loss than it was immediately after the initial weight loss.

“Thus, the body is no longer fighting against you, but actually with you, which is good news for anyone trying to lose weight.

“We were able to show that you shouldn’t give up. If you’re able to keep your weight down for a year, then it shifts and becomes easier.”

“Other clinical trials are addressing the question of whether a ten percent weight loss with a total diet replacement of formula foods for eight weeks can prevent diabetes if followed by an effective weight loss strategy,” continued Professor Leeds.

“This new paper from Copenhagen encourages us to believe that we’re on the right path, when Britain is facing the risk of another million people with diabetes in 20 years’ time. Losing enough weight is known to be the key component of diabetes prevention programmes, an essential requirement for early diabetes reversal and for improving more advanced diabetes.”

Professor Gary Frost, who studies how people with diabetes can successfully lose weight at Imperial College London also welcomed the study: “Getting the right amount of weight loss to reverse early diabetes or improve more advanced diabetes is important. Just a few pounds won’t do. The right amount of change can be delivered initially with formula diet, followed by carefully managed re-introduction of conventional foods.

“I am convinced that when doctors and dietitians become familiar with how to help people through these impressive weight losses this will become a standard option within health care services on a global scale.”


The study findings were recently published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

The main finding in the study revealed that after one year of successful weight loss maintenance, the researchers were able to demonstrate that postprandial levels of two appetite inhibiting hormones (GLP-1 and PYY) increased (=appetite inhibition) from before-weight loss level – in contrast to the hunger hormone ghrelin, which increased immediately after weight loss but returned to normal levels (= low hunger) after one year. This demonstrates that the hormones GLP-1 and PYY are able to adjust to a new ‘set point’ and thus may facilitate the continuation of a new and lower body weight.

“We know that obese people have low levels of the appetite inhibiting hormone GLP-1. The good thing is that now we are able to show that you can actually increase the levels of this hormone as well as the appetite inhibiting hormone PYY by weight loss and that the levels are kept high (=increased appetite inhibition) when you maintain your weight loss for a year,” adds first author of the study MD and PhD student Eva Winning Iepsen

Cambridge Weight Plan is an evidence-based formula diet programme that delivers safe weight loss and maintenance at greater rates than occurs after conventional diet. Gold-standard clinical trials have shown weight loss and maintenance of about 10kg (10 per cent) of body weight for four years in elderly obese people with knee osteoarthritis with reduced pain and improved cardiovascular profiles maintained for at least one year. Similar findings have been shown in men with moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnoea, in women following heart attack and in people with psoriasis. Studies to demonstrate prevention of diabetes and reversal of early diabetes are underway. A recent presentation in Britain showed that a weight loss of 10kg in those with obesity and insulin treated type 2 diabetes can improve blood glucose control and reduce insulin dose. Four out of 10 participants were able to stop taking insulin.

Study finds low energy formula diets more effective for diabetes patients than ‘gold-standard’ clinical NHS care

Diabetes Awareness
Diabetes Awareness

Every purchase of one of these Diabetes Awareness Insulated Travel Cup helps fund diabetes research – you can get yours here.

  • The preliminary study by Imperial College London studied the impact of a low energy formula diet on obese patients with long standing type 2 diabetes on insulin treatment
  • This formula diet was a controlled, low energy food plan where specific soups and shakes were provided to patients to control their calorie intake
  • Patients on a low energy formula diet shed nearly 10 kilos over the 12 week programme
  • That’s compared to just 2.2 kilos lost by the control group who followed ‘gold standard’ NHS clinical care and the recommended 600 calorie-deficit diet
  • Study will be presented at Diabetes UK Conference in Glasgow on the 2nd of March

  • A new preliminary study has found that formula diets help people with insulin-treated diabetes to reduce their body weight and dose of insulin.

    A randomised, controlled trial by Imperial College London, which will be presented at Diabetes UK Conference in Glasgow on the 2nd of March, studied the impact of a low energy formula diet on weight loss in obese patients with long-standing type 2 diabetes on insulin treatment.

    The study split the insulin-treated patients into two groups, with half taking the formula low energy diet, the Cambridge Weight Plan, and half following the ‘gold-standard’ clinical NHS care and 600 calorie-deficit diet. Both groups received advice to help change their behaviour and physical activity advice.

    The patients completing the low energy formula diet saw greater reductions in their blood sugar, body fat mass levels, cut back their insulin dosage and shed nearly 10 kilograms of weight over 12 weeks, whilst those in the control group following the NHS guidelines lost only an average of 2.2 kilograms without as big an impact on insulin.

    This is the first evidence from the UK that a group of people with insulin-treated diabetes can improve their condition by losing weight and lowering insulin use through such a diet.

    Soaring rates of obesity-linked diabetes have led to a huge rise in UK insulin users since 1991, an earlier study from Cardiff University’s study of patient prescriptions reported in the Journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism in 2014. It said the number of individuals with type 2 diabetes injecting insulin soared seven-fold from 37,000 in 1991 to 277,400 in 2010.

    As a result there are more type 2 individuals on insulin now than type 1 diabetics with which insulin treatment is more commonly associated.

    So should the NHS be reviewing their gold-standard advice when it comes to diabetes care?

    To find out more we interviewed Adrian Brown of  Imperial College London.

    Adrian Brown  – My name is Adrian Brown and I am an investigator on the study and a specialist dietician in weight management.

    Patient Talk – Can you explain what type 2 diabetes is?

    Adrian Brown  – Type 2 Diabetes is a condition associated with high blood sugars, approximately 4 million people in the UK currently have Diabetes and worldwide it has 358 million people and what it is is possibly by 2025 it’s going to rise to about 5 million. What we do know about type 2 Diabetes is in simple terms it’s when your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin to cope with the sugar in your blood or you have something called insulin resistance where you resistant to the insulin that you do produce and this results in you having higher than normal blood sugars, recently it’s also been linked in with recent evidence to suggest actually the fat it accumulates within an organ called your pancreas and an organ called your liver, which are organs that help to maintain you blood sugar levels in your body are actually linked with  the development of Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is also associated with obesity so what we do know is that it is also associated with family history and women that have Diabetes in pregnancy, approximately 85% of patients with type 2 Diabetes are either overweight or obese so a huge percentage of patients and if you look between type 1 and type 2 around 90% of patients within that 4 million are actually type 2 within the UK.

    Patient Talk– Ok and why is diet important to people with Diabetes?

    Adrian Brown – Diet is key, it’s very important for patients as previously mentioned to the links in patients being overweight obese and how diet significantly links in with a patient or a person increasing their body weight. Furthermore what we also know is that type 2 Diabetes is also linked in with conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure and diet has been linked in with the development of those as well so it’s very important that patients and people with type 2 Diabetes look at their dietary habits, furthermore what we also know is that carbohydrates specifically affects their blood sugars and as I said before blood sugars are part of type 2 Diabetes where people are able to control their blood sugars so it’s important that people understand where the carbohydrates is within their diet and whether they can patiently change that to give them better blood sugar control, In addition to that what we also know is that nutritional status within patients that are overweight is also very key, a lot pf patients when you look at the literature who are obsess or nutritional deficient in a variety of different vitamin and minerals so it’s important that diet is well balanced and when we actually look at things actually using a low calorie formula based diet is actually a good option because there is evidence to suggest that actually it shows within patients with arthritis there is improvement is vitamin D and I believe iron as well.

    Patient Talk – Ok and what is the current NHS plan and why is it failing?

    Adrian Brown  – So the NHS has a variety of different guidance documents out there on the treatment management of type 2 Diabetes, they look at setting out guidelines particularly around HBA1C, blood pressure readings and all sorts low fat reading levels for the nation. What is also looks at is it sets out guidance related to the type of dietary management and also physical activity which is key to help people with type 2 Diabetes particularly around prevention but also it links in with medication advice as well so when to start medications, I think some of the key elements are around the ideas of patient education specifically, managing those patients and complications within the UK and also in England and also making sure that we look at prevention as well is a key.

    Patient Talk – Ok and can you explain how this study was conducted?

    Adrian Brown  – Of course, so the study itself is looking at patients with long standing type 2 Diabetes that are currently treated on insulin so these patients have had Diabetes for a number of years and has progressed through initially diet and physical activity advice then onto oral medications and finally usually between 4 and 10 years they end up on insulin so what we are doing at Imperial college London is we are randomising to putting patients randomly into one group or another and the two groups that we are comparing is we are looking at gold standard NHS care, so what I mean by that is we are giving patients dietary advice to help them lose weight and we are doing that by using a 600 calorie deficit diet that is calculated by figuring out someone’s basil metabolic rate using a special calculation and then what we do is we take off 500 – 600 calories to allow them to lose weight and we give them dietary advice and portion size advice for that. In addition to that in both groups we give them behaviour change so we look at a person’s relationship with food so we give them advice related to self-monitoring to goal setting and those types of things, in addition to that we talk about emotional eating and the behavioural side to that and also slip ups and step backs as we appreciate it isn’t just about weight loss it’s also about weight maintenance. So just in this study in the 12 weeks which start to give people those skills to be able to do that, in addition to that we give them physical activity advice for general health which is around 150 of moderate activity a week and what we are doing is comparing this gold standard NHS care and we are comparing that to using a low energy diet for a period of 12 weeks and this low energy diet is a soul source formula based diet, the one which we are using is Cambridge 0800, and this gives patients between 808 to about 840 calories every day and they have soups and shakes thought that whole time of the 12 weeks  and what we are doing is comparing whether using this low calorie diet compared to traditional dietary care produces better weight loss, improvement of blood sugar control and reduction of insulin.

    Patient Talk – So it’s kind of everything you are after then?

    Adrian Brown  – In a way what we are looking for is we are looking to see how or if there are other ways other than medication or bariatric surgery to see if we can help these patients lose weight, there is evidence out there within patients with early onset diabetes, so on oral medications that using a very low energy diet can help to put a patient in a way remission of the conditions that actually dictate they have diabetes, so they significantly improve the bloody sugar control and also the sensitivity of the insulin in the body so we are looking to see whether this can happen in patients with long standing type 2 diabetes currently treated on insulin as that is a question that we would like to know as there is an increasing amount of patients that are currently being treated on insulin for type 2 diabetes , approximately about 370000 to 2010 about 270000 so that is a huge increase in the amount of patients that are currently treated on insulin and if we can reduce some of the burden that these patients have we can also reduce the patient burden but also the pressure on the NHS from a cost point of view as insulin is a very expensive medication.

    Patient Talk – And is there any other conditions that this would also be useful for?

    Adrian Brown – There is evidence to suggest that the use of very low calorie diets can help with symptoms of arthritis, psoriasis and also obstructive sleep apnea, however, if you want to speak to the right person for that I would probably recommend you speak to Dr Tony Leeds’s who has all the full papers for that but there is some good evidence to start to suggest that those conditions can be improved but what we do know is that 1 year after the use of a low energy diet that continuing to use 1 product a day for the next 4 years has actually been shown to maintain the 10% weight lose that you have achieved in the first year up to 4 years which is very impressive, it will be interesting to see how our study continues over the next 12 months to see if we can maintain the pulmonary results that we have got here.

    Patient Talk – And can you tell us the results that came from doing this study?

    Adrian Brown  – The pulmonary results from the study showed that there was a significantly greater weight loss in the low energy diet group compared to the gold standard NHS care, the low energy group lost around 10kg in weight whereas the gold standard NHS care group lost around 2.2kg so that’s a significant difference between the two over the 12 week period. Both groups reduced their insulin significantly, to put it into context, there was reduction of around 40 units for the patient on a low energy diet and for the group the was on the good clinical care what they did was lost about 34 units so that was actually a representation of around 75% reduction in the low energy diet group and about 46% in the gold standard NHS care group so it actually shows that with the right balance and the right advice of dietary and behavioural and physical activity advice that actually we can get significant improvements with patients with type 2 diabetes currently treated on insulin. In addition to that we got 4 patients completely off insulin with a low energy diet group compared to none in the gold standard NHS care and we actually saw a significant reduction in blood sugar control so that’s something called HPA1C so that is your average blood sugar and what we say we saw a reduction of around 1% in the low energy diet group and about 0.6% in the good clinical care, one very very interesting element that actually we did find was there is talk about the loss of lean tissue or muscle mass particularly when using low energy diets and actually although the amount of lean tissue was significantly different between the two groups which meant that the lower energy diet lost more weight in terms of muscle mass compared to the good clinical care, when it was converted into an actual amount compared to the weight loss lost what that represented was that only around 30% of the total weight was muscle mass compared to around 38% on the good clinical care so actually the traditional diet actually made people lose more lean tissue which is a good outcome related to low energy diet and something quite interesting that I think that we need to look in further for before we can make definitive answers related to that.

    Patient Talk – And where can people go for more information?

    Adrian Brown  – For diabetes what I recommend people do is that they go to a www.diabetes.org.uk and if people are interested about more information about the formula diet used within the pulmonary study I would recommend they go to www.cambridgeweightplan.com .

    Top diets reviewed for 2016

    Diets for weight loss
    Diets for weight loss

    With so many diet options to choose from, it can be hard to find a weight loss plan to suit you.

    To help, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) takes a look at the pros and cons, giving its verdict on some of the most popular diets.

    5:2 diet

    The 5:2 diet is based on a principle known as intermittent fasting (IF) – where you eat normally for five days a week and fast on the other two days. On top of losing weight, fans claim the 5:2 diet can improve lifespan and brain function, and protect against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    However, evidence on the effectiveness of the 5:2 diet is limited when compared with other types of weight loss techniques. One 2010 study found women placed on a 5:2 diet achieved similar levels of weight loss to women on a calorie-controlled diet, and were also less likely to develop chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. There is some evidence that the 5:2 model may help lower the risk of certain obesity-related cancers, such as breast cancer.

    Sticking to a regimen for two days a week is more achievable than seven days, so you are more likely to persevere with this way of eating and successfully lose weight. Two days a week on a restricted diet can lead to greater reductions in body fat, insulin resistance and other chronic diseases.

    The non-restricted days do not mean unlimited feasting. While you don’t need to be as strict about your calorie consumption, you still need to make healthy choices and be physically active. Skipping meals could make you feel dizzy, irritable, give you headaches and make it hard to concentrate, which can affect work and other daily tasks. Other reported side effects are difficulties sleeping and daytime sleepiness, bad breath and dehydration.

    BDA verdict:
    The 5:2 is a simple way to reduce calorie intake. There are lots of versions of this diet, with some less safe than others. Many studies on intermittent fasting are short-term, involve small numbers of subjects, or are animal-based. If you choose to follow it, choose an evidence-based plan based on healthy, balanced eating and written by a dietitian, such as the “2-Day Diet”. It’s vital for your health to avoid nutritional deficiencies, dehydration and overeating on non-fast days. Never attempt to delay or skip meals if you are pregnant, have had, or are prone to eating disorders or diabetes.

    Dukan diet

    The Dukan diet is a low-carbohydrate (carb), high-protein diet. There’s no limit to how much you can eat during the plan’s four phases, provided you stick to the rules of the plan. During phase one, you’re on a strict lean protein diet. This is based on a list of 72 reasonably low-fat protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, eggs, fish and fat-free dairy. This is for an average of five days to achieve quick weight loss. Carbs are off limits, except for a small amount of oat bran. Unlike the Atkins diet, Dukan’s phase one bans vegetables and seriously restricts fat. The next three phases of the plan see the gradual introduction of some fruit, veg and carbs, and eventually all foods. The aim is gradual weight loss of up to 2lb a week and to promote long-term weight management. There’s no time limit to the final phase, which involves having a protein-only day once a week and taking regular exercise.

    You can lose weight very quickly, which can be motivating. It’s a very strict and prescriptive diet, which some people like. It’s easy to follow, and you don’t need to weigh food or count calories. Apart from keeping to low-fat, low-salt and high-protein foods, there’s no restriction on how much you can eat during your first two weeks.

    At the start of the diet, you may experience side effects such as bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia and nausea from cutting out carbs. The lack of wholegrains, fruit and veg in the early stages of the diet could cause problems such as constipation.

    BDA verdict:
    Rapid weight loss can be motivating, but it is unsustainable and unhealthy. The Dukan diet isn’t nutritionally balanced, which is acknowledged by the fact you need a vitamin supplement and a fibre top-up in the form of oat bran. There’s a danger this type of diet could increase your risk of long-term health problems if you don’t stick to the rules. The diet lacks variety in the initial phases, so there’s a risk you’ll get bored quickly and give up.

    Paleo diet

    The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, was Google’s most searched-for weight loss method in 2013. The diet consists of foods that can be hunted and fished – such as meat and seafood – and foods that can be gathered – such as eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s a regime based on the supposed eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors during the paleolithic era, before the development of agriculture around 10,000 years ago. That means cereal grains including wheat, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes and salt – as well as anything processed – are strictly off the menu. There is no official “paleo diet”, but it is generally seen as a low-carb, high-protein diet, with some variations on carbohydrate and meat intake. Advocates say the paleo diet is a long-term healthy eating plan that can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other health problems.

    Most studies on the paleo-type diet are small, and more long-term research is needed to show conclusively whether or not it is as effective as some people claim. One 2008 study suggested the paleo diet “could help reduce the risk of heart disease”. However, several limitations in the study meant it was not possible to say whether the paleo diet was any more effective than any other low-calorie diets.

    The paleo diet encourages you to eat less processed food and more fruit and vegetables. Reducing your consumption of high-calorie foods will reduce your calorie intake and help you lose weight. The diet is simple and doesn’t involve calorie counting. Some plans go by the “80/20” rule, where you’ll get 99% of the benefits of the paleo diet if you adhere to it 80% of the time. This flexibility can make the diet easier to stick to, so you are more likely to be successful.

    There are no accurate records of the diet of our Stone Age ancestors, so the paleo diet is largely based on an educated guess, and its health claims lack scientific evidence. Most versions of the diet encourage large amounts of meat, which runs counter to current health advice on meat consumption. Many versions ban dairy products and wholegrains, which form part of a healthy, balanced diet. Like all high-protein diets, the paleo can be expensive, depending on your choice of meat cuts. It’s impossible to follow without eating meat, seafood or eggs, so it’s not one for vegetarians!

    BDA verdict:
    Most versions of the paleo diet exclude key food groups, raising the potential for nutritional deficiencies unless careful substitutions are made, and dietary supplements may be necessary. The diet has some positive aspects, so an adapted version that doesn’t ban any food groups – such as wholegrains, dairy and legumes – would be a better choice. The diet lacks variety, so there’s a risk you’ll get bored quickly and give up. If you want to copy your paleolithic ancestors, you’re better off mimicking their activity levels, rather than their alleged diet.

    New Atkins diet

    The Atkins diet promises to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. The theory is that by starving yourself of carbohydrates, your body will start burning fat for energy. New Atkins is similar to the old Atkins, except it allows a wider variety of foods to make it more nutritionally balanced. During the first two weeks of the diet, designed for rapid weight loss, you’re on a protein-rich diet with no restrictions on fat and a daily carb allowance of just 20g. During the next three phases, the weight loss is likely to be more gradual and regular exercise is encouraged. More carbs are introduced to your diet – initially 5g and later 10g at a time – with the aim of working out what your ideal carb intake is to maintain a healthy weight for life. Phase one is designed to help you lose up to 15lb in two weeks, reducing to 2-3lb during phase two.

    You can lose weight very quickly, which can be motivating. The diet also encourages people to cut out most processed carbs and alcohol. With its diet of red meat, butter, cream, cheese and mayonnaise, it’s one of the diets that appeals most to men.

    Initial side effects can include bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation from cutting out carbs, and potential for lower fibre intake. The high intake of saturated fat may increase your risk of heart disease, and there are concerns about the recommendation to add salt.

    BDA verdict:
    The New Atkins diet plan is almost the same as the original one, but includes more practical advice on how to implement the diet and variety to reduce boredom. The amount of processed meat, red meat and saturated fat is still an issue, as is the advice to add salt, which all contradict current health advice. Some could still find it complicated and time consuming, but the promise of initial rapid weight loss may appeal to and motivate some.

    Alkaline diet

    The alkaline diet, whose celebrity fans reportedly include Gywneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham, is based on the idea that modern diets cause our body to produce too much acid. The theory is that excess acid in the body is turned into fat, leading to weight gain. High acidity levels have also been blamed on conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, tiredness, and kidney and liver disorders.

    The diet recommends cutting back on acid-producing foods such as meat, wheat and other grains, refined sugar, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods in favour of “alkaline foods”, which reduce the body’s acidity levels. This translates into plenty of fruit and vegetables. The idea is that an alkaline diet helps maintain the body’s acidity at healthy levels. There are different versions of the alkaline diet. Some followers adopt the “80/20 rule”, consisting of a diet based on 80% fruit and veg and 20% grains and protein.

    Originally developed to help prevent kidney stones and urine infections by using diet to adjust the acidity levels in the urine, there is little evidence to support the diet’s more recent health claims. The weight loss observed among followers is more likely to be the result of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and cutting down on sugar, alcohol and processed foods, which is standard healthy weight loss advice.

    The diet contains plenty of good healthy eating advice, such as cutting down on meat, avoiding sugar, alcohol and processed foods, and eating more fruit and veg, nuts, seeds and legumes. This means you will be cutting out foods you may normally eat and replacing them with healthier choices, which will also reduce your calorie intake.

    Your body regulates its acidity levels, regardless of diet. When cutting down on dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, you need to find other calcium substitutes, as cutting out an entire food group is never a good idea. Getting to grips with what you can and can’t eat on the diet can be time consuming, particularly in the beginning.

    BDA verdict:
    The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance (acidity levels) to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet. The diet lacks evidence, and some versions that advise cutting out entire food groups should be avoided. The more balanced versions of the diet provide variety and include all the food groups. If you are going to try the alkaline diet, choose a balanced plan, stick to it to the letter, and stay clear of supplements and other diet-related gimmicks.

    Cambridge diet

    The Cambridge Weight Plans are based around buying and eating a range of meal-replacement products with the promise of rapid weight loss. There are six flexible diet plans ranging from 415 calories to 1,500 calories or more a day, depending on your weight loss goal. There is also a long-term weight management programme. The bars, soups, porridges and shakes can be used as your sole source of nutrition or together with low-calorie regular meals. While on the programme, you receive advice and support on healthy eating and exercise from a Cambridge adviser.

    Many people on very low calorie diets find the weight loss to be sudden and quite dramatic. The meal replacements are all nutritionally balanced, so you’re likely to be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, albeit not from real food.

    Initial side effects can include bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation from cutting down on carbs and fibre. The hardest part of the plan is sticking to it. Giving up normal meals and swapping them for a snack bar or a shake can be boring and feel socially isolating. This isn’t a plan you can stick to in the long term.

    BDA verdict:
    You need to like the meal replacement products to stay with the plan. Rapid weight loss can be motivating, but it is unsustainable. A very low calorie diet that involves eating 1,000 calories a day or fewer should not be followed for more than 12 continuous weeks. If you are eating fewer than 600 calories a day, you should have medical supervision.

    South Beach Diet

    The South Beach Diet is a low-GI diet originally developed for heart patients in the US. There’s no calorie counting and no limits on portions. You’re encouraged to eat three meals and two snacks a day, and follow an exercise plan. People who have more than 10lb to lose start with phase one. This is a two-week quick weight loss regime where you eat lean protein, including meat, fish and poultry, as well as some low-GI vegetables and unsaturated fats. Low-GI carbs are re-introduced during phases two and three, which encourage gradual and sustainable weight loss.

    If you can avoid phase one and start on phase two, there are fewer dietary restrictions in the rest of the plan than some other popular diets. After phase one, the diet broadly follows the basic principles of healthy eating. No major food groups are eliminated and plenty of fruit, veg and low-GI carbs are recommended.

    The severe dietary restrictions of phase one may leave you feeling weak and you will miss out on some vitamins, minerals and fibre. You may initially experience side effects such as bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation.

    BDA verdict:
    The first two weeks are the most difficult to get through. We’re concerned this diet promises such a large weight loss – up to 13lb – in the first two weeks. This, however, won’t be all fat. Some of the weight loss will include water and carbs, both of which will be replaced when you begin eating more normally. Once you get past the initial phase, the diet follows the basic principles of healthy eating and should provide the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

    Slimming World diet

    Slimming World’s weight loss plan encourages you to swap high-fat foods for low-fat foods that are naturally filling. You choose your food from a list of low-fat foods they call “Free Foods”, such as fruit, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice, lean meat, fish and eggs, which you can eat in unlimited amounts. There’s no calorie counting, no foods are banned, and you’re still allowed the occasional treat. You can get support from fellow slimmers at weekly group meetings and follow an exercise plan to become gradually more active. The plan is designed to help you lose about 1-2lb a week.

    No foods are banned, so meals offer balance and variety and are family-friendly. The portion size from each food group will vary depending on which plan you follow. The “Body Magic” booklet they provide gives ideas to help you raise your activity levels. Meeting as a group can provide valuable support.

    Slimming World doesn’t educate you about calories. Without learning about calories and portion sizes, you may struggle to keep the weight off in the long term when you come off the programme.

    BDA verdict:
    The group meetings encourage members to share successes, ideas and recipes with each other, but they may not appeal to everyone. While the meal plans may lack some flexibility, they are generally balanced. However, without learning about calories and portion sizes, you may struggle to make healthy choices once you’ve left the programme.

    Slim-Fast diet

    The Slim-Fast diet is a low-calorie meal replacement plan for people with a BMI of 25 and over. It uses Slim-Fast’s range of products. The plan recommends three snacks a day from an extensive list, including crisps and chocolate, two meal replacement shakes or bars, and one regular meal taken from a list of recipes on the Slim-Fast website. You can stay on the diet for as long as you want, depending on your weight loss goal. Once reached, you’re advised to have one meal replacement shake a day, up to two low-fat snacks and two healthy meals. The plan is designed to help you lose about 1-2lb a week and you can follow the diet for as long as you want.

    Meal replacement diets can be effective at helping some people lose weight and keep it off. The plan is convenient, as the products take the guesswork out of portion control and calorie counting. No foods are forbidden, although you are encouraged to eat lean protein, fruit and vegetables.

    On their own, meal replacement diets do little to educate people about their eating habits and change their behaviour. There’s a risk of putting the weight back on again once you stop using the products. You may find it hard to get your 5 A DAYof fruit and veg without careful planning.

    BDA verdict:
    If you don’t like the taste of the meal replacement products, you won’t stay with the plan. The Slim-Fast plan can be useful to kickstart your weight loss regime, but it’s important that you make full use of the online support to learn about the principles of healthy eating and how to manage everyday food and drink.

    LighterLife diet

    The LighterLife weight loss plans combine a very low-calorie meal replacement diet with weekly counselling. With LighterLife Total, for people with a BMI of 30 or more, you eat four food packs a day, consisting of shakes, soups, mousses or bars, and no conventional food. LighterLife Lite, for those with a BMI of 25-30, involves eating three food packs a day, plus one meal from a list of approved foods. You stay on the plans until you reach your target weight. The meal plans can lead to very rapid weight loss, and you’re advised to see your GP before starting. How long you stay on the diet depends on how much weight you have to lose.

    The counselling can help you understand your relationship with food, so hopefully you can make lasting changes to keep the weight off for good. With the meal replacements, there’s no weighing or measuring, so it’s a hassle-free approach to weight loss.

    Initial side effects of the diet can include bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation from cutting down on carbs and fibre. Surviving on a strict diet of shakes and soups and other meal replacements isn’t much fun, and can feel socially isolating.

    BDA verdict:
    Rapid weight loss can be motivating, but it is unsustainable. LighterLife’s very low calorie diet and its counselling component may work for some, particularly people who have struggled to lose weight for years, have health problems as a result of their weight, and are clinically obese with a BMI of more than 30. A very low calorie diet that involves eating 1,000 calories a day or fewer should not be followed for more than 12 continuous weeks. If you are eating fewer than 600 calories a day, you should have medical supervision.

    WeightWatchers diet

    The WeightWatchers plan is based on the ProPoints system, which gives a value to foods and drink based on protein, carbs, fat and fibre content. It is essentially a calorie-controlled diet where you get a personal daily ProPoints allowance, which you can use how you like. There’s no limit on the amount of fruit and most veg you can eat. You also get a weekly ProPoints safety net in case you go over your allowance, as well as an individual exercise plan. The weekly meetings and confidential weigh-ins provide support and extra motivation to encourage long-term behaviour change. The plan is designed to help you lose up to 2lb a week.

    No foods are banned, so you can eat and drink what you want provided you stick to your points allowance. The ProPoints system is easier to follow for some than calorie counting, and less restrictive than other plans. This is because it introduces a safety net of points, which can be saved up for a special occasion, such as a night out, a small amount of alcohol or treats.

    When you begin, working out the points system can be just as time consuming as simply counting calories. Some people feel pressured into purchasing WeightWatchers-branded foods.

    BDA verdict:
    The ProPoints plan is generally well balanced and can be a foundation for long-term changes in dietary habits. The support group approach can help keep people motivated and educate them about healthy eating. But it’s vital that you make the connection between the points system and calories if you want to avoid putting the weight back on once you leave the programme.

    Rosemary Conley diet

    Rosemary Conley’s Diet and Fitness plans combine a low-fat, low-GI diet with regular exercise. You can follow her recipes or her various diets and fitness programmes. You’re encouraged to eat food with 5% or less fat, with the exception of oily fish, porridge oats and lean meat. Her online weight loss club has a range of tools and videos covering cooking classes, medical, psychological and nutritional advice, plus exercises for all fitness levels. There is also support and motivation from trained coaches. You learn about calorie counting and portion size, which can help you sustain your weight loss beyond the programme. The diets are designed to help you lose a stone in seven weeks and encourage lifestyle change. How long you stay on the plan depends on your weight loss goal.

    The programme is based around calories, with a focus on cutting fat. The “portion pots” – which are used to measure foods such as rice, cereal, pasta and baked beans – teach you about portion control. Physical activity is an integral part of the weight loss plan, with exercise videos suitable for all ages, sizes and abilities offered online.

    Some low-fat products aren’t necessarily healthier, as they can still be high in sugar and calories. It’s unrealistic to expect people to go out with their portion pots, which means portion control may be tricky away from the home.

    BDA verdict:
    The diet and exercise plans offer a balanced approach to weight loss that teaches you about portion size, the importance of regular exercise and making healthier choices. The educational element is very useful for long-term weight management once you have left the programme.