Do meal replacements work for weight loss?

Meal replacements products such as portion-controlled meals, soups, shakes and bars are popular weight-loss options.

A review of their benefits finds that they are more effective than traditional diets for up to a year and the advantage is enhanced if used as part of a support program.

Meal replacements are used to replace foods usually consumed at one or more meals with the intent to reduce daily energy intake to help with weight loss or weight maintenance following weight loss. It is a crowded marketplace with no end of portion-controlled meals, soups, shakes and bars to choose from.

There is nothing inherently special about meal replacements in how they work to help with weight loss. All they do is provide a discrete energy and portion control at meal times which along with sensible eating habits, will help with weight loss.

How meal replacements fare compared to other ways of losing weight was the subject of a recent systematic review.

Twenty-three randomised-controlled weight loss trials were analysed that compared meal replacements used for one year against an alternative diet.

In people who were assigned to a diet that used a meal replacement product, they lost an additional 1.4 kilograms compared with alternative kinds of diets.

When meal replacements also included some level of ongoing support, the weight loss difference at one year was even greater at 2.2 kilograms compared with other diets with support.

In studies that had the highest level of ongoing support, weight loss on meal replacements was 6.1 kilograms greater than alternative diets with regular support.


Meal replacement products can be an effective option to help with weight loss and this benefit is heightened when used as part of an ongoing support program.

Author: myDr


For reference: Astbury NM et al. A systematic review and meta‐analysis of the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss. Obesity Reviews Epub online 24 January 2019 doi: 10.1111/obr.12816.


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