Weight Loss Diets and Shakes—Avoid This Like the Plague

Weight loss.  Your doctor pronounces the goal like it’s as easy as changing socks.  But it’s the rare physician that can put you on the path to that goal.

The (much) less informed physicians will recommend drink mixes to lose weight with names like Medifast or Slim Fast.  Maybe the DASH diet or the American Heart Association Step 1 diet.  Maybe they’ll hand you a sheet with some do’s and don’ts.

Weight loss, however, is never that easy and the opinions are all over the place.  But there are some very clear concepts that play out again and again.  And while there are many ways to lose weight, some of these methods are a very bad idea.

How can losing weight be a bad idea?  I mean beyond cancer cachexia, intestinal parasites and amputation, of course.  Let’s put it into a question…When you lose weight, would you rather lose fat or muscle?

Pretty simple question.  I can see all hands being raised for the desire to lose fat.  Except for the group in the back studying to become sumo wrestlers…

It has been clear for some time that, when we make the wrong decisions to lose weight, we lose muscle mass instead of fat.  On the outside, you may lose weight.  But when you take a peek inside using techniques such as bio-impedance analysis (BIA), you may find that the weight loss actually came from muscle mass NOT fat.  Not a good thing.

In this particular study, we see just how glaring this can be.  In it, researchers looked at 30 women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to see what happened when they were put on either a restricted calorie low carbohydrate diet or a standard restricted calorie diet.  Specifically, the low carb diet had 41% of calories from carbs versus 55% of calories from carbs in the standard diet.

These women followed each diet for 8 weeks and body composition was monitored by DXA for body composition and CT scans for fat mass.

Here’s what they found:

  • The women lost an average of 3.7% of total fat on the low carb diet versus 2.2% fat loss on the standard diet.
  • The low-carb diet led to a decrease in fat in the subcutaneous-abdominal, intra-abdominal, and thigh-intermuscular areas (− 7.1%, − 4.6%, and − 11.5%, respspectively).
  • The standard diet, on the other hand, led to a LOSS of lean body mass.

This is a perfect example of what happens when we make the wrong choices for weight loss.  This is also why our office’s weight loss program focuses on a low-calorie, low-carb diet to make sure you lose weight the RIGHT way.

Considering that PCOS is essentially a prediabetic condition, this gives more weight to the idea that controlling carbohydrate intake is of critical importance for managing and avoiding both prediabetes and diabetes.

This means that, without a doubt, most “meal-replacement” shakes are off the list.  Most are loaded with carbs (that way they are low-fat…) and if not, they have artificial sweeteners, also linked to weight gain.

Avoid them like the plague (or, if you prefer to be timely, Ebola…).

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.