Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD)

What is a VLCD?

The recommended energy intake for adults is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men. A very low calorie diet is a medically supervised diet plan that involves eating approximately 800 calories a day.


What does it involve?

The 800 calorie a day Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) course normally lasts for 24 weeks: 12 weeks spent replacing all your meals with soups, shakes and bars from a specially formulated diet plan, and then a further 12 weeks is spent gradually reintroducing normal food.

Very low calorie diets are hard to follow and can often lead to feelings of hunger, low energy, headaches, dizziness, cramps and hair thinning. They are not the first option for weight management and thus are not routinely used. When used, they should be part of a wider weight management plan, as they are not a long term solution. 


You should only follow a VLCD if recommended by a GP, and the restrictive part of the diet should be followed under medical supervision for a maximum of 12 weeks. Any longer and you run the risk of complications including severe nutritional deficiencies.

Who is a VLCD suitable for?

Your clinician might recommend a very low calorie diet if you are obese (BMI greater than 30) and have diabetes or are preparing for fertility treatment or bariatric surgery. Trials have shown that people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes went into remission after following a VLCD. In addition to this, the results found that patients lost on average a kilogram more than expected. 

Very low calorie diets are not suitable if you are:

  • under 18

  • pregnant

  • breastfeeding

  • have had an eating disorder


Will I keep the weight off?

While very low calorie diets can lead to short term weight loss, it is likely that the weight will come back on after the diet ends, especially if you resume old eating habits straight away. It is important to reintroduce normal food gradually to prevent rebound weight gain.

What happens during a consultation?

Our clinicians will discuss weight management options with you and recommend a plan based on you medical conditions, mediations and any treatments you have had before. If they feel a VLCD might benefit you, they will ensure the diet is nutritionally complete, will supervise you whilst you are on it, and will make sure that you have ongoing support after the diet.



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©2020 by Dr Mariam Adegoke.