Irish Heart Foundation warns public over 'quick-fix' diets

Those hoping to lose weight have been warned about over-the-counter meal replacement products, with experts saying that a slow approach is the only way to lose weight successfully and keep it off.

QUICK FIX DIETS – such as over-the-counter meal replacement products – do not work, the Irish Heart foundation has warned today.

Chair of the Irish Heart Foundation, Dr Donal O’Shea, warned the public about “shortcuts” on the road to weight loss: “If we have learnt anything over the last decade in weight management it is that, for most people, slow weight loss is the only way to lose weight successfully and keep it off.”

He welcomed the fact that pharmacists were becoming “more and more active” as health care deliverers – but warned against promoting meal replacement products, saying that by doing so, some pharmacists could be “encouraging a cycle of failure in people attempting to manage their weight”.

The cycle of failure would not help to reduce obesity in Ireland’s population, he said.


O’Shea said obesity was a major health issue for Ireland, and was being seen increasingly in younger generations.

In my clinical practice I have seen people with real health problems resulting from very low calorie approaches, such as meal replacement products. I cannot say it enough, quick fixes do not work.
My message to the public is to understand that there is no such thing as a shortcut to weight loss. Weight loss takes time, and the real key to success is to understand and accept this fact.

The Irish Heart Foundation recommends that people who are overweight or obese should be supported in their efforts to lose weight through healthy eating plans combined with regular exercise.

A slower approach to weight loss reduces disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as promoting energy and feelings of well-being, the foundation says.

Reduce calories – but not too drastically

Both the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) recommend reducing calorie intake by 500-1000 kcals a day in order to achieve a steady weight loss of 1-2 pounds (0.5-1.0kg) each week.

However, people were strongly advised not to engage in very low calorie dieting (consuming less than 800 kcals per day). Such diets can produce many side effects such as weakness, dizziness, constipation, hair loss, nausea and irritability, according to the Irish Heart Foundation – and, furthermore, do not produce long term results.

Maureen Mulvihill, Health Promotion Manager, Irish Heart Foundation warned that ‘quick fix’ diets not only do not work, but also fail to”educate a person on the basic principles of healthy eating or how to change their behaviour for long term health benefits.”

“For those with significant weight problems there may be a role for meal replacements but only under the supervision of medical or dietetic intervention,” she added.

For more information about healthy weight loss see the Irish Heart Foundation or Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute

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