Very Low-Calorie Diets: What You Need to Know

Scale in the shape of a dinner plate

Source: Thinkstock


What are Very Low Calorie Diets? (VLCD)

Very low calorie diets are a severe form of restricting calories. They normally comprise of 500-800 kcals/day, and consist of prepared, nutritionally balanced foods.  (1)

A weight loss of 33-44 pounds can be achieved in 12 weeks. Patients with Type 2 diabetes and obesity can also improve their metabolic markers. (2)

Are There Any Applications for a Very Low Calorie Diet?

According to the University of California at Los Angeles, Very Low Calorie diets are usually only recommended for the severely or morbidly obese who may need to lose weight as quickly as possible (3). However, these diets shouldn’t ever be attempted unless you are medically supervised.  At Health Risk Management, medical experts ensure you get adequate protein, vitamins and minerals.

Very low calorie diets may be an option for those who are obese and are wishing to jump-start weight loss or lose enough weight quickly to prepare for bariatric surgery. While a dietitian/nutritionist at The Austin Diagnostic Clinic can supervise you through the diet, they usually aren’t a long-term solution and are often limited to a 12-week time period. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, eating a very low calorie diet can lead to a weight loss of about 44 pounds in 12 weeks (4).

Side Effects of Very Low Calorie Diets

Under supervised care, very low calorie diets can cause some side effects. One of the most common side-effect is increased risk for gallstones. Your doctor may even prescribe medications to reduce the likelihood for gallstones if you are pursuing a very low calorie diet. Other symptoms a person may experience while on a very low calorie diet include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

However, in the Health Risk Management program, the medical staff are able to diagnose and treat all of these conditions, if they occur.

Another effect of a very low calorie diet can be weight gain. This is why it’s important to have a medically supervised nutrition plan. In the Health Risk Management program, it’s called “maintenance”. After a patient’s weight loss, they’re transitioned into the maintenance phase of the program, which reintroduces food in a positive way. This ensures long-term success and reduces the likelihood of relapse.

ADC has two departments that help patients improve their health through diet and education: Health Risk Management and Nutrition Services. For more information about Nutrition Services, call 512-901-4055. For questions about the Health Risk Management program or their free orientations, call 512-901-4540.



[1] Pi-Sunyer FX, Maggio CA. The prevention and treatment of obesity

[2] Henry RR,Schaeffer L, Olefsky JM. Glycemic effects of instensive calorie restriction and isocalorific refeeding in non-insulin dependendent diabetes mellitus

[3] http://clinicalnutrition.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=32

[4] http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/very-low-calorie-diets/Pages/very-low-calorie-diets.aspx


  1. I have a friend that did the low calorie diet, I’m interested. She referred me.