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Low Calorie Diets and Obesity - Functional Foods
Reduced Energy Foods for Obesity Treatment
Weight Loss Information - Weight Reduction Advice


Low Calorie Diets & Obesity - Functional Foods

Body Weight Reduction & Energy Balance
The fundamental laws of energy balance dictate that any reduction in energy intake below energy needs will be sufficient to reduce body weight. This theoretical framework is supported by numerous laboratory-based studies, with rigorous control over energy intake, when weight loss occurs in a predictable manner proportional to the degree of energy restriction. Yet it is equally clear that in a free-living situation weight loss is surprisingly difficult to achieve. This suggests that it is not the principle of low calorie diets that is in question, but how they are implemented.

Body Weight Reduction & Weight Loss Diets
A number of strategies to decrease energy intake are routinely used in dietetic practice. This includes the adoption of low fat/high carbohydrate diets and increased quantities of fruit and vegetables to decrease overall energy density. Reductions in portion size are often recommended, although evidence of the efficacy of this approach is limited. In principle decreases in meal frequency will cut energy intake but the association between snacking and body weight is complex and confounded by mis-reporting of intake and post-hoc effects.

Body Weight Reduction & Functional Foods
Low or reduced energy foods may be considered as some of the first 'functional' foods on the market, specifically designed to assist weight loss. There is now reasonably good evidence that high intensity sweeteners induce caloric compensation and thus are of limited value as a weight loss aid. However the incorporation of fat substitutes, such as olestra. Into the diet has usually led to modest reductions in energy intake and a significant decrease in the proportion of fat in the diet. To date there is very little data on the long term impact on body weight and even in countries where its use is licensed the range of products incorporating olestra is so small that its application in public health terms is limited. Overall there is little evidence to suggest that isolated low or reduced energy foods are sufficient for the long term management of obesity. However they may be valuable when incorporated into the diet as part of a planned and deliberate strategy to cut energy intake.

Weight Maintenance & Functional Foods
Functional foods which involve a greater substitution of habitual foods are more effective. Very low energy diets in which the entire daily food intake is replaced with a nutritionally complete formula are associated with significant weight loss, at least in the short term and in individuals who can comply with the rigours of his type of intervention. However research is needed to identify an effective dietary strategy for subsequent weight maintenance. Meal replacement products, in the form of either milk shakes or cereal bars, that are used as a substitute for one or two meals each day, can also offer a low calorie option. Recently data from a meta-analysis over one year of treatment and five-year follow-up data from a community based self-managed program suggests that this may be a promising approach.

Obesity Treatment
The aim of obesity treatment is two-fold; to decrease body weight and to reduce the risk of co-morbid disease. The optimal dietary strategy will reduce energy intake while concomitantly making a positive contribution to health by incorporating into the diet program foods such as oily fish, wholegrain cereals, fruit and vegetables. Responsible dietary management of obesity is much more complex than just cutting calories.

Source: Dr Susan A Jebb, Head of Nutrition and Health Research, MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge.

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