Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meal replacements don't help obese teens slim down

NEW YORK - REPLACING regular meals with shakes and prepackaged entrees boosts obese teens' weight loss in the early stages of dieting, new research shows.

But these 'meal replacements' were no better than a standard low-calorie diet for helping young people continue losing weight over the course of a year, Dr Robert L. Berkowitz of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and his colleagues found.

Swapping regular meals for shakes, bars or prepackaged entrees can be a useful weight loss strategy for adults, Dr Berkowitz and his team note in the journal Obesity.

One reason that these meal replacements may work is that they take the guesswork out of dieting; people often sharply underestimate their calorie intake when they eat regular foods.

Given that adolescents also underestimate how many calories they consume, the researchers sought to investigate whether meal replacements might be helpful for teens as well.

The researchers randomly assigned 113 obese teens and their families to one of three regimens: following a standard 1,300- to 1,500-calorie-a-day diet for a year; four months of meal replacements (three SlimFast shakes, one prepackaged entree, and five servings of fruits and vegetables) followed by eight months on the low-cal diet; or an entire year of meal replacements. -- REUTERS

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