Ineffectiveness of Very Low Calorie Diets


The paper will focus on the claim that Very Low Calorie Diets are ineffective against weight loss. Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs) are diets that only prescribe a maximum of 800 calories per day. Many people in the first world are resulting to drastic measures to loose weight mostly because of heightened concerns about their body image and / or their health. Consequently, different sorts of diets have crowded the weight loss market thus leaving potential clients at a loss for choice. This particular paper will demystify myths and misconceptions about VLCDs through an analysis of various expert opinions on the matter.

An evaluative claim about VLCDs

VLCDs are very ineffective in loosing weight. In fact, they actually go against the very purpose for which they were intended; they cause weight increases. This statement may seem paradoxical but there are plenty of scientific researches that back it up. In other words, better ways in which one can create permanent fat loss exist other than through such diets. (Johnston 57)

Very Low Calorie Diets are ineffective in causing permanent weight loss or in preventing re-lapse to other conventional eating habits. Consequently, one should look at other alternatives that can achieve the said objectives.

An examination of criteria applicable to VLCDs

In order to ascertain that Very Low Calorie Diets work, the most crucial thing that needs to be examined is whether these diets cause permanent weight loss among a diverse group of individuals. In other words, the diet should be able to cause weight loss for obese, mildly obese and ‘normal’ individuals. Besides this, in order for VLCDs to be effective, their results should be evident even after a certain periods of time i.e. six months and above.

Another very important criterion that the VLCDs should pass is with regard to its side effects. If such diets are likely to cause any side effects; whether cosmetically or medically, then they are just not worth the effort. This is even worse if the side effects are long term. The major reason behind this is that good nutrition should be able to boost one’s health instead of making worse. Also, one should look and feel great after embarking on it. (McQuillian & Saltzman 32)

Evidence that the VLCDs do not meet the standard criteria

It should be noted that the major principle governing the Very low Calorie Diets is that the lower the calories one consumes, the higher the amount of calories burnt by the body. The principle assumes that bodies are fueled by calories and that more fat will be burnt if calories are not sufficient enough to meet the body’s metabolic needs. While this statement may be true to a certain extent, it has under looked a major fact that good nutritionists never ignore; bodies can adapt to calorific situations. VLCDs tend to slow down the body’s metabolic process. This means that fat loss can become a very difficult process to carry out in the long term. (Simmons 98) Additionally, fat loss may increase at first then eventually reaches a plateau. In the end, one may end up regaining all the weight that they had lost in the process. Perhaps the most serious repercussion about these diets is that they cause the body to eat up one’s muscle tissue. This means that the body enters into starvation mode where it begins protecting the last pounds of energy reserves that it posses through stored fat. What this implies is that the body may loose weight but such a body may still posses a high amount of body fat compared to lean body mass.

All nutritionists agree that in order to loose weight, one ought to take in fewer calories than one burns. However, the major problem with these VLCDs is that they create high levels of calorie deficits within the body because the food recommendations are too aggressive. What this does to the body is that it deceives the body into thinking that it is starving. Since such diets are usually not coupled with exercise training, the body starts storing up fat while at the same time using up lean muscle. At this starvation mode, the body behaves in such a manner that the fat cells begin emitting less of hormone letin (a fat burning hormone). Also the hormones lipoprotein lipase and lipase begin increasing within the body. These hormones cause a decrease in lean mass. The brain itself activates the hypothalamus which is responsible for causing increases in one’s appetite. In the end, the body fiercely fights to hold on to some of the last amounts of weight that it possibly can. This means that VLCD adherents tend to display binge eating or what is often called yo-yo dieting. Such people eventually gain their weight back after intense period of discomfort. (Johnston 69)

The VLCDs also fail in another parameter – they do not lead to permanent weight loss. They operate on a honeymoon type of program where weight loss is quite visible at the onset of the diet but not in subsequent periods. Weight is never kept completely off for a long time.

The VLCDs are also ineffective because of the side effects that they cause. A number of adherents to these diets have reported increased hair loss. Additionally, some usually feel constipated or may have diarrhea. Worse still, one is always in a state of hunger. Perhaps the most worrying trend is that very aggressive low calorie dieting can lead to accumulation of gall stones. (American Heart Association 187)


The VLCDs are ineffective; this claim is backed up by their failure to meet three standards. First of all, they do not cause permanent weight loss. Secondly, they have very serious side effects and thirdly, they only work for obese persons and any other category of people will be disappointed by its results.


McQuillian, Susan & Saltzman, Edward. The Complete Idiots Guide to Loosing Weight. Germane: Rowman Press. 2008.

American Heart Association. 365 Ways To Get The Fat Out. New York: Routledge. 2007.

Simmons, Richard. Never Give Up. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2006.

Johnston, Anita. Eating in the Light of the Moon, Minneapolis: Praeger Publishers. 2008.

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