Background: Lifestyle changes involving diet, behavior, and physical activity are the cornerstone of successful weight control. Incorporating meal replacements (1-2 per day) into traditional lifestyle interventions may offer an additional strategy for overweight patients in the primary care setting.
Methods: One hundred thirteen overweight premenopausal women (mean +/- SD age, 40.4 +/- 5.5 years; weight, 82 +/- 10 kg; and body mass index, 30 +/- 3 kg/m(2)) participated in a 1-year weight-reduction study consisting of 26 sessions. The women were randomly assigned to 3 different traditional lifestyle-based groups: (1) dietitian-led group intervention (1 hour per session), (2) dietitian-led group intervention incorporating meal replacements (1 hour per session), or (3) primary care office intervention incorporating meal replacements with individual physician and nurse visits (10-15 minutes per visit).
Results: For the 74 subjects (65%) completing 1 year, the primary care office intervention using meal replacements was as effective as the traditional dietitian-led group intervention not using meal replacements (mean +/- SD weight loss, 4.3% +/- 6.5% vs 4.1% +/- 6.4%, respectively). Comparison of the dietitian-led groups showed that women using meal replacements maintained a significantly greater weight loss (9.1% +/- 8.9% vs 4.1% +/- 6.4%) (P =.03). Analysis across groups showed that weight loss of 5% to 10% was associated with significant (P =.01) reduction in percentage of body fat, body mass index, waist circumference, resting energy expenditure, insulin level, total cholesterol level, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level. Weight loss of 10% or greater was associated with additional significant (P =.05) improvements in blood pressure and triglyceride level.
Conclusions: A traditional lifestyle intervention using meal replacements can be effective for weight control and reduction in risk of chronic disease in the physician's office setting as well as in the dietitian-led group setting.