Health Team

Liquid diets work, but need careful monitoring

Posted May 22, 2014

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— WRAL health expert Dr. Allen Mask detailed a liquid diet program last February called Optifast.

The story of the program, which only comes through a doctor’s prescription and careful monitoring, has inspired many people to give it a try in an effort to lose weight.

Dr. Ronald Sha, of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, laid out the benefits of its program, which includes a very low-calorie diet of just 800 calories a day.

Elizabetta Politi, a registered dietitian of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, said each of the products has 120 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of protein.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Sha said. “And to be honest, I’m not sure there ever will be.”

The program itself wasn’t as well known as the center’s residential program where clients exercise, attend health classes and eat all of their meals at the center.

Mask’s story helped bring clients such as Betty Sue Taylor to try the Optifast program.

Taylor said she didn’t have the time to live at the center and had no desire to enroll in the residential program. With her blood pressure and cholesterol rising, she decided that the Optifast program was the way to bring her numbers down.

“My story’s probably like a lot of people that work long hours – grab something quickly, don’t make good food choices,” Taylor said.

Weekly classes and counseling sessions are helping Taylor prepare for the program’s transition phase where she will have to make real food choices and a plan she can stay on for life.

Currently halfway through the 18-week program, Taylor has already lost 18 percent of her body weight.

“I feel like I will be at my goal when I get out of here,” Taylor said. “It will give me the launch pad to continue on to my final goal.”

Optifast’s supervised transition phase involves meal replacements where real food meals begin to replace the liquid diet products.

The body needs to be re-introduced to real foods slowly. The transition phase gives the client time to begin practicing the real food choices they’ll need to maintain their weight loss.

Mask said health issues can occur with very low-calorie diets. The minimum average daily calories for women are 1,200 and 1,500 for men. Without the proper balance of nutritional needs and careful medical monitoring, there can be significant ricks such as headaches, dizziness, hair loss and muscle loss.

Those who try to reduce their calories to 500 a day are at risk of anemia, stroke or heart arrhythmias, Mask said.


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