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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.


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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