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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jun;19(6):1193-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.288. Epub 2010 Dec 9.

Meal replacements in the treatment of adolescent obesity: a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. berkowitz@email.chop.edu


Use of meal replacements (MRs) in lifestyle modification programs (LMPs) for obese adults significantly increases weight loss, compared with prescription of an isocaloric conventional diet (CD). This 12-month randomized trial examined 113 obese adolescents (mean ± s.d. age of 15.0 ± 1.3 years and BMI of 37.1 ± 5.1 kg/m2) who were assigned to a LMP, combined with meal plans of 1300-1500 kcal/day of CD (self-selected foods) or MR (three SlimFast shakes, one prepackaged meal, five vegetable/fruit servings). After month 4 (phase 1), participants originally treated with MR were unmasked to their phase 2 (months 5-12) random assignment: continued use of MR (i.e., MR+MR) or transitioned to CD (i.e., MR+CD). Participants initially treated with CD in phase 1, continued with CD (i.e., CD). All three groups were treated for an additional 8 months (phase 2). Regression models were used to evaluate percentage change in BMI from baseline to month 4 (phase 1), months 5-12 (phase 2), and baseline to month 12. At month 4, participants assigned to MR (N = 65) achieved a mean (±s.e.) 6.3 ± 0.6% reduction in BMI, compared to a significantly (P = 0.01) smaller 3.8 ± 0.8% for CD participants (N = 37). In phase 2, BMI increased significantly (P < 0.001) in all three conditions, resulting in no significant (P = 0.39) differences between groups in percentage change in BMI at month 12. Across groups, mean reduction in BMI from baseline to month 12 was 3.4 ± 0.7% (P < 0.01). Use of MR significantly improved short-term weight loss, compared with CD, but its continued use did not improve maintenance of lost weight.

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