Efficacy of a meal-replacement program for promoting blood lipid changes and weight and body fat loss in US Army soldiers

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Feb;110(2):268-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.039.


Excess weight is associated with negative health outcomes. Meal replacements are effective in promoting favorable body composition changes in civilian populations; however, their efficacy with military service members who have unique lifestyles is unknown. The objective of this randomized controlled trial was to determine the efficacy of the Army's education-based weight-management program, "Weigh to Stay," with and without meal replacements for improving blood lipids, and to promote weight and body fat loss in overweight US Army soldiers. Soldiers (n=113; 76 males/37 females) attending Weigh to Stay at Fort Bragg, NC, in 2006/2007 were randomized to Weigh to Stay only or a commercially available meal-replacement program (two meal replacements per day) in conjunction with Weigh to Stay, and followed until Army body fat standards were met or for 6 months if standards were not met. Study completers (n=46) in both treatment groups lost weight (Weigh to Stay: -2.7+/-4.3 kg; meal replacers: -3.8+/-3.5 kg) and fat mass (Weigh to Stay, -2.7+/-3.2 kg; meal replacers: -2.9+/-2.5 kg), and improved high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations (Weigh to Stay: 13+/-9 mg/dL [0.34+/-0.23 mmol/L]; meal replacers: 8+/-7 mg/dL [0.21+/-0.18 mmol/L]; P<0.05); however, no between-group differences were observed. Attrition was lower (P=0.009) and success in meeting body fat standards tended to be higher (P=0.06) for the meal replacers vs Weigh to Stay participants. Intent-to-treat analysis demonstrated that meal replacers lost more weight (1.2+/-0.5 kg), percent body fat (1.0%+/-0.4%), and fat mass (0.8+/-0.4 kg) compared to Weigh to Stay volunteers (P<0.05). Our findings suggest that meal replacement use can be recommended as a potential adjunct strategy to Weigh to Stay.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Food, Formulated*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Nutritional Sciences / education
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Overweight / blood*
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Weight Loss / physiology


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol