What Are the Dangers of Medifast?

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The Medifast Diet, originally created in 1981 as a doctor-administered weight loss plan but now open to anyone, is a system which offers quick weight loss based on a carefully-administered set of meal options. For many, it has shown great results, with substantial and quick weight loss, especially early in the plan. But those looking to shed the pounds in a big hurry must be careful, because this extreme level of dieting offers its own distinct hazards. Don't start a Medifast diet until you've talked to your doctor, and only proceed with the diet under medical supervision.

The Medifast Plan

  • At its heart, the Medifast plan works on two levels, reducing both overall calorie intake and carbohydrate consumption. By cutting daily calories down to 800 to 1,000, you can lose weight simply by going about your normal activities. And by cutting out carbohydrates in the diet, the plan put you into ketosis, a metabolic state that accelerates weight loss.

Ketosis

  • Normally, the body gets its quick energy from carbohydrates, and the normal American diet gives it plenty to work with. Deprived of carbs, however, the body shifts into a mode where it consumes anything it can get for energy, primarily fat. This can result in quick weight loss, but it can also cause damage to the mucle tissue if protein intake is not kept at an acceptable level. Adherents to the Medifast plan are encouraged to drink protein shakes and consume other supplements to ensure their bodies are able to maintain healthy lean tissue.

Reduced Calories

  • One of the other pitfalls of the Medifast plan is common to any diet involving a seriously reduced caloric intake. Going from 2,000 calories a day or more to 1,000 calories does produce significant effects in the body. In addition to the expected hunger, the abrupt change in intake can cause lightheadedness, irritability, headaches or gastrointestinal issues. Especially in the early stages of the diet, this can make the plan difficult to adhere to; unfortunately, Medifast only works well when the regimen is followed carefully. If you're exercising on Medifast, WebMD recommends halving both the intensity and duration of your workouts. The NYU Langone Medical Center also notes that Medifast is not appropriate for pregnant women or people with a high level of activity, because it's so low in calories.

Malnutrition and Dehydration

  • One of the dangers of any dietary plan, especially those that severely restrict caloric intake, is malnutrition. Considerable care must be taken to ensure that you get all the vitamins and minerals your body requires despite eating less; for this reason the Medifast diet is very carefully engineered and should be followed precisely. Skipping any of the plan's supplements could rob your body of important nutrients and lead to deficiencies or illness. Also, the natural process of removing excess sugar from the body can lead to dehydration, so it's important to maintain a healthy intake of liquids to ensure a proper fluid balance.

Other Considerations

  • While Medifast is generally recognized as a safe dietary plan, the NYU Langone Medical Center recommends trying other weight loss methods, such as a calorie-controlled, well-balanced that contains the major healthy food groups, before starting a meal plan that eliminates entire food groups.

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