Medifast Diet Dangers: Potential Health Risks With the Medifast Diet Plan

Medifast Diet Dangers: Potential Health Risks With the Medifast Diet Plan
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The Medifast meal replacement program was developed by Dr. William Vitale, M.D. in 1980. Initially, the program was only available with a doctor’s prescription. Today, Medifast is available to everyone without a prescription and has become one of the most popular weight loss programs available.

Though more than 20,000 doctors recommend Medifast and clinical studies have shown the diet to be highly effective at producing dramatic weight loss results when used properly; there are a number of Medifast diet dangers that are worth considering before beginning the program.

Medifast: The Basics

The key component to the Medifast diet plan is the selection of prepackaged “meals” that make up the bulk of your daily diet. While following the program, you choose five of these prepackaged meals, including soups, puddings, shakes, bars and more, to eat throughout the day. Each day you also prepare and consume one “lean and green” meal that includes one portion of lean meat along with vegetables. You can eat your “lean and green” meal anytime during the day, but you must adhere to the portion sizes and food choices set forth by the diet plan.

The prepackaged foods at the heart of the Medifast program are all portion controlled and low-calorie. The supposed key to the success of the Medifast diet is the low-caloric content and the frequency of “meal” consumption, which reportedly stimulates your metabolism for increased fat burn.

Medifast and Metabolism

Studies have shown that eating small, frequent meals throughout the day helps to keep your metabolism functioning better than eating fewer, larger meals or eating very sporadically. The five small meals provided by the Medifast plan may help initially boost metabolism, but this affect will be short lived.

On the Medifast plan you will consume an average of 800 to 1,000 calories per day. This is a dramatic reduction from the caloric intake most people are used to, and much less than those recommended by The American Society for Nutrition which average between 2,200 and 2,500 for women and men. Both this dramatic reduction in calories and the rapid weight loss that results from it will eventually cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy. A slow metabolism can result in complications including low blood pressure, slowed pulse rate, chills and fatigue.

Medifast and Gastrointestinal Concerns

Some people that try the Medifast program experience minor to severe gastrointestinal issues, even if they are not prone to such problems otherwise. Stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn are common complaints from Medifast users. It is also worth noting that almost all of the Medifast meals contain soy. Some clinical studies suggest that eating too much soy can cause upset stomach and intestinal distress. Many of the products also contain lactose which can cause intestinal problems for those that are lactose intolerant.

Medifast and Ketosis

Chicken and Salad

The Medifast diet plan contains virtually no carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a source of energy for the body, and when you eliminate carbohydrates; your body must find an alternate energy source. After a few days with no carbohydrate intake, your body enters a state called ketosis where it begins to fat stores for energy. Ketosis is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you want to lose weight, but a prolonged state of ketosis can be dangerous. Prolonged ketosis can cause muscle depletion and serious damage to the kidneys, liver and other organs.

Medifast and Malnutrition

The restricted caloric intake offered by the Medifast diet plan can quickly lead to malnutrition if not followed correctly. Though the meals provided by the program do contain essential vitamins and minerals, you should consult with your physician before beginning the program to determine if they recommend you take additional supplements. In order to help prevent malnutrition, and its many negative health effects from occurring, eat all of your daily meal portions and do not follow the program for a prolonged period of time.

Other Medifast Health Dangers

Medifast is both a reduced calorie and a reduced fat diet plan. As such, there are a number of health concerns that can result from improper or long-term use of the program. Some individuals may experience these effects immediately after beginning the program. Some of these issues can include, but are not limited to: lethargy, irritability, insomnia, decreased concentration, skin irritations, anemia, decreased immune function, lightheadedness and dizziness and irregular menstrual cycle.

Anyone with a serious health condition such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension, should consult with their physician before beginning the Medifast plan. However, even if you do not have an existing health condition, it is wise to talk to your doctor about the Medifast diet dangers and whether this diet plan is right for you.


Photo Credits:

Milk Shake Gabriel Fiorini

Chicken and Salad Robert Müller