Induction and maintenance of a period of negative energy balance are required for overweight and obese subjects to lose weight. Meal replacements, particularly in beverage form, have now evolved as part of the "toolbox" used by researchers and clinicians to achieve negative energy balance. This overview traces the historical development of beverage meal replacements, reviews key studies supporting their clinical efficacy, and examines concerns related to their safe use. This collective information supports the view that meal replacements, particularly in beverage form, are now an effective and safe component for use in the clinical setting. Further studies are needed to identify those subjects most likely to benefit from use of meal replacements as part of their comprehensive weight control program.
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