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What is a Very Low Calorie Diet?


Updated February 15, 2014

How Much Weight Can You Lose?

An obese patient can lose about three to five pounds a week while following a VLC diet. The average weight loss for a 12-week VLC diet is about 44 pounds. This amount of weight loss can significantly improve obesity-related medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Within three to six months, someone who initially followed a VLC diet -- and afterwards incorporates ongoing lifestyle changes, a healthy eating plan, and exercise -- can lose about 15 to 25 percent of their initial weight.

What are the Side Effects?

Many patients who follow a VLC diet for four to 16 weeks experience side effects such as fatigue, constipation, nausea, or diarrhea. These usually improve within a few weeks and rarely prevent patients from completing the program.

The most common serious side effect of VLC diets is gallstones. Gallstones often develop in people who are obese -- especially women. They are even more common during rapid weight loss. Your health care provider may be able to prescribe medication to prevent gallstone formation during rapid weight loss.

What are the Long-Term Results?

Research has shown the long-term results of VLC diets vary significantly. Weight regain is common. Combining a VLC diet with behavior therapy, exercise and follow-up treatment may prevent weight regain. VLC participants typically maintain a five percent weight loss after four years if they adopt a healthy eating and exercise plan.


National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Weight-control Information Network. WIN - Publication - Very-Low-Calorie-Diets. 29 Nov 2007.

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