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What is a meal replacement product and why does it help you lose weight?

What is a meal replacement product and why does it help you lose weight?

We all know how to lose weight – eat less and move more, and yet it is much harder than it seems! There are so many hidden calories in the things we eat and drink, even those so-called healthy foods can have much more fat, sugar or calories than we realise.

Portion control is also an issue. We tend to underestimate the amount we’re eating. This means that without weighing and measuring everything we consume, we could be significantly under valuing the calories we’re eating each day.

Last but not least we are short on time and often on the go, so cooking nutritious food from fresh three times a day is not always realistic.

These three problems have been solved by meal replacement products. These come in the form of shakes, bars, soups, porridge, savoury meals and desserts. You can choose a selection of these products to give you variety and also to fit in to your lifestyle. But ultimately, they all share the same key things – their composition is controlled by European Union legislation, they are portion controlled, low in calories and packed with the vitamins, minerals and trace elements you need for balanced nutrition and healthy weight loss. They are also designed to keep you feeling fuller for longer and be really convenient, so you’re not tempted to grab something naughty when you’re on the go or at the office.

Meal replacements are eaten instead of a “conventional” meal and can be combined with healthy snacks such as fresh fruit or a light lunch or dinner on the managed weight loss plan. A mix of products and healthy foods ensure that your calories for the day are within the limits you need to meet your weight loss goals, but without sacrificing nutrition. This is key, as you want to boost your health, not reduce the nutrition you are receiving and also you want to feel good about eating these products, and learn how to combine them with food so you can make a positive long-term change.

According to Andrew Shao in his book Superfood and Functional Food, “Meal replacements are a safe and effective tool for weight loss and weight management and beyond. Recent research and concepts suggest that the category can provide additional metabolic and nutritional benefits not previously recognized. Recent studies indicate that use of protein‐enriched meal replacements helps maintain lean body mass during weight loss, providing additional metabolic benefits in the form of improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation.”

Within the last three years we’ve seen results from major studies such as PREVIEW, DiRECT and DROPLET which have used meal replacements for weight loss to fight obesity and diabetes and revealed some excellent results.

The PREVIEW project looked at what the most effective lifestyle was to prevent Type-2 diabetes in overweight and obese people in the high-risk category. More than 2,200 adults with prediabetes from around the world were asked to use meal replacements for two months to achieve rapid weight loss and then follow a long-term plan combining a good diet with exercise. This was shown to be an excellent way of preventing type 2 diabetes.

The DROPLET trial tested the effectiveness and safety of a total diet replacement programme for routine treatment of obesity, comparing this with dieticians offering standard NHS weight loss and a diet programmes. This trial used meal replacement products, combined with support from Cambridge Weight Plan consultants to help the dieters with their weight loss journey. It showed significantly better weight loss in the total diet replacement group overall – 10.7kg, compared to – 3.1kg lost. There was also a very noticeable difference in how many of the participants could successfully lose significant weight. Of the total diet replacement group 45% of participants lost 10% or more, whereas only 15% of the other group managed this. The TDR group showed greater improvements in biomarkers of cardiovascular and metabolic risk than the usual care group.  This was a very important study, which led to the NHS in the UK adopting Cambridge Weight Plan (and meal replacement products in general) as an approved weight loss product.

The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT) was designed to determine whether a structured, intensive, weight management programme, delivered in a routine Primary Care setting, is a viable treatment for achieving reversal of Type-2 diabetes. They compared using meal replacements as part of a weight management programme with one to one support and assistance with food reintroduction to the standard guideline-based care which is normally given to people who need to lose weight for health reasons.

The study found there was a close link between remission and total weight loss. 86% of people who lost more than 15kg on the programme put their Type 2 diabetes into remission after a year. As did 57% of those who lost 10 to 15kg, along with 34% of those who lost 5 to 10 kg. In the comparison group, where people with Type 2 diabetes received standard care, only 4% achieved remission. Find out more

A year on and they have revealed that 70% of the participants who went into remission are still in remission. Remission is closely linked to weight loss, 64% of participants who lost more than 10 kilos were in remission at two years. Participants regained some weight, as expected, between the first and second years of the trial. However, those who were in remission after one year, and who had stayed in remission, had lost a greater amount of weight on average (15.5 kilos) than those who didn’t stay in remission (12 kilos).

As well as resulting in remission for some people, there appear to be additional benefits to taking part in a weight management programme overall. These include a reported better quality of life, improved blood glucose levels and a reduced need for diabetes medications. Find out more

So as you can see, a structured weight loss management programme using meal replacement products and support to keep on track and learn how to integrate food into your diet has been shown to be highly effective in helping people to lose weight, fight diabetes and keep weight under control over the long-term.

Many of these studies used Cambridge Weight Plan’s nutritionally complete meal replacement products and our Accredited Independent Consultants can help you to lose weight and become healthier too. Our products have been produced following the EU and Spanish regulations and we combine the products with real food and one to one support to maximise the success of the plan.



  • Efsalogo
    European Food Safety Authority.
    European agency for scientific advice and communication of the risks associated with the food chain.
  • Foodstandardsagencylogo
    Food Standards Agency.
    Government is the department of the United Kingdom that works to protect the public health of consumers over food.
  • Evidence Based
    Evidence based.
    Practice based on scientific evidence and the realization of medical-scientific studies that prove its certainty.