Are very low-calorie diets effective for weight loss?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics
In the short term, a very low-calorie diet generally does result in weight loss. However, the weight loss is generally muscle and water weight. When someone loses weight quickly due to very restrictive diet, they are at high risk of gaining the weight back. Party because eventually restriction of too many calories leads to overeating or binging. And because when you lose muscle your metabolic rate slows down, making harder to keep the weight off. For long term weight loss that can be maintained, a diet that is moderate in calorie restriction is much more effective.
Caroline M. Apovian, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Low-calorie diets can be tricky business, which is why they're often not effective. In this video, nutrition and weight management specialist Dr. Caroline Apovian talks about common mistakes people make -- and how to avoid them.

A lot of people put themselves on very low-calorie diets when they get serious about losing weight. Unfortunately, this strategy is doomed to fail. First, it's not sustainable. If you're cutting back drastically on calories and you exercise regularly, you're going to lose weight in the short term (both body fat and muscle mass), but you're going to be hungry and feel weak most of the time. Ultimately, you'll return to your former eating patterns, and then you're not only likely to add back all the weight you just lost, but you may even gain more.

Second, extreme calorie cutting reduces your metabolic rate -- the number of calories that your body naturally burns to perform all of its daily functions, including mobility, digestion, breathing, etc. By reducing your metabolic rate, you make it more likely that you'll increase your body weight and fat stores with normal eating patterns.

Continue Learning about Dieting For Weight Loss

Dieting For Weight Loss

Dieting For Weight Loss

Losing weight quickly is OK as long as you do it safely, not through a crash diet. You can lose three or more pounds a week by burning more calories than you eat. If you burn an extra 500 calories per day through eating less and i...

ncreasing your physical activity, you can lose about one to two pounds of fat per week. Dietitians recommend a daily minimum of 1,200 calories per day (a 200-pound person might need 1,400 calories). Anything less makes you lose muscle as well as fat, which slows your metabolism. Instead, minimize your intake of starches, added sugars like high fructose corn syrup and animal fat from dairy and meats. Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, soy products, egg whites, skinless poultry breasts, shellfish and fish, nonfat dairy foods and meat that is 95 percent lean. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals, and eat only from a plate while seated at a table.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.