Comparison of Very Low Energy Diet Products Available in Australia and How to Tailor Them to Optimise Protein Content for Younger and Older Adult Men and Women

18 February 2018

Very low energy diets (VLED) are efficacious in inducing rapid weight loss but may not contain adequate macronutrients or micronutrients for individuals with varying nutritional requirements. Adequate protein intake during weight loss appears particularly important to help preserve fat free mass and control appetite, and low energy and carbohydrate content also contributes to appetite control. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the nutritional content (with a focus on protein), nutritional adequacy and cost of all commercially-available VLED brands in Australia. Nutritional content and cost were extracted and compared between brands and to the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) or adequate intake (AI) of macronutrients and micronutrients for men and women aged 19–70 years or >70 years. There was wide variability in the nutritional content, nutritional adequacy and cost of VLED brands. Most notably, even brands with the highest daily protein content, based on consuming three products/day (KicStart™ and Optislim®, ~60 g/day), only met estimated protein requirements of the smallest and youngest women for whom a VLED would be indicated. Considering multiple options to optimise protein content, we propose that adding pure powdered protein is the most suitable option because it minimizes additional energy, carbohydrate and cost of VLEDs.