Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

By Ashley LoseApril 7th 2021

Shakes, juices, teas, soups, gelatins, smoothies — these are the makings of a liquid diet. As the name suggests, a liquid diet is a nutrition program that either replaces all your solid foods with liquids or some of your meals with the consumption of liquids instead. There are so many types of liquid diets – some for weight loss and fitness purposes, and others for medical purposes. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of liquid diets and explore if any of them can be effective for weight loss. (Can My Chiropractor Help Me Lose A Few Pounds? Check it out!)

Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

Types of Liquid Diets

Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

Let’s begin with Meal Replacement Shakes. 

Meal replacement shakes, not to be confused with protein shakes, are presumed to be packed with all the nutrients you would get from a full meal.1 They’re heavily marketed by numerous companies for weight loss and immune support purposes – some in cans and bottles, while others come in a powdered form intended to be mixed with milk or water and while they may seem like a magic bullet for nutrition, you need to know what to look for in a meal replacement shake to get the best benefits for your body. You want to pay close attention to the nutrition labels. Some nutrition drinks may highlight all the vitamins and minerals that are inside but alternatively, they can be packed with added sugar. Make sure you examine the nutrition label or if the ingredients are listed, look to see if fruit or protein are at the top of the list. If sugars are among the top two ingredients there’s likely a healthier option.2 It’s also important to examine the number of calories that are in a serving of the shake. Experts advise selecting shakes that are about 400 calories if you’re looking to replace a meal.3   

Meal replacement shakes have proven to quite beneficial in several studies for cardiovascular and weight loss results when combined with low-intensity lifestyle intervention,4 even for people individuals who suffer severe mental illnesses.5

While the length of weight loss programs varies per individual, some programs use meal replacement shakes to replace daily meals for several months to combat obesity.6

Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

The second category of liquid diets we’ll explore are Detoxification Diets and Cleanses.

Detox diets have grown in popularity in the past few years — there’s the colon cleanse, whole body cleanse, detoxification cleanse, the list goes on and they all seem to vary in duration and intensity. Unlike meal replacement shakes, these so-called detox drinks are usually a concoction of natural ingredients like lemons, honey, cayenne pepper, ground ginger, hot water which are the key ingredients to the lemonade master cleanse diet. The marketing claims of these cleanses are to help your body eliminate harmful toxins and clean your blood but studies show no evidence of these claims.7 It is extremely important to know that there is no evidence that detox diets and cleanses remove any toxins from your body. What we do know is that the human body is fully capable of keeping up with its own maintenance. Through our bodily systems the liver, feces, sweat, and urine, our bodies are constantly identifying foreign toxins in our body and releasing them.8,9

Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

Lastly, we’ll discuss Clear and Full Liquid Diets. 

Clear and full liquid diets are typically prescribed to you by a doctor before a surgical procedure, after a surgical procedure, or if you are having difficulties swallowing or chewing. However, there are some differences between the clear liquid and full liquid diet. On an exclusive clear diet, you can drink anything that is clear – water, cranberry juice, Jell-O, broth, tea, some juices without pulp.10 Even though the color of the liquid may not be clear you can drink it as long as you can see through it. On a full liquid diet, you can incorporate foods that turn into a liquid when stored at room temperature; foods like applesauce, pureed potatoes, and oatmeal.11 

Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

Can Replacing Meals With Liquids Help You Lose Weight?

There have been several studies on the impact of liquid diets and whether or not it produces weight loss results. In one study that included 128 patients, 94 morbidly obese participants were prescribed a very-low-calorie diet for 1 week and 2 weeks, respectively with the expectation of weight loss, a tremendous step before bariatric surgery. The control group was not. As the study came to an end those participants who were assigned to the very-low-calorie liquid diet showed higher rates of compliance before their weight loss surgery and lost a reasonable amount of weight.12 In another study that tested the effects of different weight loss methods for patients with cardiovascular risk, a very-low-calorie liquid diet showed excellent weight loss results in the short-term but showed no difference in terms of long-term weight loss effects to less restrictive dieting.13  (Check out How Losing Weight Affects Your Body and Brain)

Liquid Diet Review: Does it work for weight loss?

Conclusion

As you may have already observed, not all liquid diets are ideal for weight loss. Even studies that concluded with great results in weight loss from assigning clients to a low-calorie liquid diet eventually reintroduced subjects to solid foods.14 The safety of each of these diets and cleanses heavily depends on the type of diet and the duration that you’re on that diet. Liquid diets are still considered very-low-calorie diets and it is advised that you speak with your doctor or registered dietician before committing to any of the above cleanses. Liquid diets and cleanses are not intended to be a long-term solution to weight loss – they don’t give you enough calories to be functional and can lead to nutritional deficiencies that put your health at risk. For that reason, it is not recommended for people with diabetes, eating disorders, or cardiovascular diseases.  (Check out how How to Lose Weight In 12 Weeks)

Sources:

  1. Hamdy, O., & Zwiefelhofer, D. (2010). Weight management using a meal replacement strategy in type 2 diabetes. Current diabetes reports, 10(2), 159–164. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11892-010-0103-9

  1. Harvard Health Publishing | Harvard Medical School. (2013, July). Supplemental nutrition drinks: help or hype? Harvard Health Letter. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/supplemental-nutrition-drinks-help-or-hype

  1. Harvard Health Publishing | Harvard Medical School. (2013, July). Supplemental nutrition drinks: help or hype? Harvard Health Letter. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/supplemental-nutrition-drinks-help-or-hype

  1. Halle, M., Röhling, M., Banzer, W. et al. Meal replacement by formula diet reduces weight more than a lifestyle intervention alone in patients with overweight or obesity and accompanied cardiovascular risk factors—the ACOORH trial. Eur J Clin Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-00783-4

  1. Gelberg, H. A., Kwan, C. L., Mena, S. J., Erickson, Z. D., Baker, M. R., Chamberlin, V., Nguyen, C., Rosen, J. A., Shah, C., & Ames, D. (2015). Meal replacements as a weight loss tool in a population with severe mental illness. Eating behaviors, 19, 61–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2015.06.009

  1. Bischoff, S. C., Damms-Machado, A., Betz, C., Herpertz, S., Legenbauer, T., Löw, T., Wechsler, J. G., Bischoff, G., Austel, A., & Ellrott, T. (2012). Multicenter evaluation of an interdisciplinary 52-week weight loss program for obesity with regard to body weight, comorbidities and quality of life--a prospective study. International journal of obesity (2005), 36(4), 614–624. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2011.107

  1. Klein, A. V., & Kiat, H. (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics : the official journal of the British Dietetic Association, 28(6), 675–686. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12286

  1. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does the liver work? 2009 Sep 17 [Updated 2016 Aug 22]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279393/

  1. Genuis, S. J., Birkholz, D., Rodushkin, I., & Beesoon, S. (2011). Blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study: monitoring and elimination of bioaccumulated toxic elements. Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology, 61(2), 344–357. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-010-9611-5

  1. Medline Plus. (2018, August 14). Clear Liquid Diet. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000205.htm. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000205.htm

  1. Medline Plus. (2018, August 20). Full Liquid Diet. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000205.htm. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000205.htm

  1. Yolsuriyanwong, K., Thanavachirasin, K., Sasso, K., Zuro, L., Bartfield, J., Marcotte, E., & Chand, B. (2019). Effectiveness, Compliance, and Acceptability of Preoperative Weight Loss with a Liquid Very Low-Calorie Diet Before Bariatric Surgery in Real Practice. Obesity surgery, 29(1), 54–60. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11695-018-3444-0

  1. Clifton, P. M., & Keogh, J. B. (2018). Effects of Different Weight Loss Approaches on CVD Risk. Current atherosclerosis reports, 20(6), 27. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-018-0728-8

  1. Bischoff, S. C., Damms-Machado, A., Betz, C., Herpertz, S., Legenbauer, T., Löw, T., Wechsler, J. G., Bischoff, G., Austel, A., & Ellrott, T. (2012). Multicenter evaluation of an interdisciplinary 52-week weight loss program for obesity with regard to body weight, comorbidities and quality of life--a prospective study. International journal of obesity (2005), 36(4), 614–624. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2011.107

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