Study Highlights Benefits of Prepackaged Weight Loss Program

Jenn Fusion | May 17th, 2013

Prepackaged Weight Loss ProgramFor years, Americans have been told that their diets are “not good enough.” Weight loss can’t be as easy as picking up a prepackaged meal from the store. For starters, there’s sodium, which increases blood pressure and causes water retention. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 75 percent of an average American’s daily sodium intake comes from processed and packaged items – “diet” or not. HelpGuide.org explains that prepackaged diet foods contain more refined ingredients, like white flour and sugar, which can negatively affect blood sugar levels.

Mark Hyman MD writes in the Huffington Post: “How do you lose weight? Substitute diet drinks for sugary drinks. Eat low-fat foods. Just eat less of the bad foods — it’s all about the calories. We are told, ‘Just have more willpower.’ These ideas are false. They are food and diet industry propaganda that make and keep us fat and sick.” He argues that diet sodas, sugar and starch are keeping Americans fat – and that these foods should be swapped out for lean protein and vegetables.

However, a new study published in the April 2013 issue of the International Journal of Obesity says that the prepackaged portion control diet plan is twice as effective as a traditional diet.

Study looks at portion control diet plan

Tufts Medical Center researchers looked at the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan, specifically. This weight loss program consists of five pre-packaged meals each day, along with one meal of vegetables and protein prepared at home. There are 70 different prepackaged foods combined to equal 1,000 calories a day. Individuals on the portion control diet plan also receive access to dieticians and recipes. The plan costs about $300 a month.

For the study, 60 dieters with BMIs of 35 to 50 were put on the Medifast plan free of charge, while 60 others were given similar advice on how to meet a 1,000 calorie-per-day diet, but who had to buy and prepare their own food. By the end of six months, people in the Medifast group lost an average of 16.5 pounds (6.7%), while the regular food group lost an average of 8.4 pounds (3.4%).

Dieters on the Medifast weight loss program:

  • Lost 2.24 inches around their waists
  • Saw a total cholesterol drop of 8.4 mg
  • Gained 6 pounds back for a total weight loss of 10 pounds after a year

Dieters on the regular foods diet:

  • Lost 1.46 inches around their waists
  • Saw a total cholesterol drop of 1.1 mg
  • Gained 4.4 pounds back for a total weight loss of 4 pounds after a year

Regimented weight loss program shows results

Lead study author James Shikany, a professor at the University of Alabama’s preventative medicine department, said that sticking to the Medifast diet made it more difficult for dieters to overeat. The system makes adhering to a regimented portion control diet plan a no-brainer. While weight loss surgery or more extreme diets may have more dramatic results, the Medifast plan is comparable to FDA-approved weight loss pills and other diet interventions.

“If you take [cost] out of the equation, I think it would be a good option or some people,” said Shikany, “especially for people who need that extra assistance in weight loss efforts as far as determining portions.”


  1. Yahoo! News, Packaged Food May Spur More Weight Loss, http://news.yahoo.com/packaged-diet-foods-may-spur-more-weight-loss-181121496.html

  2. International Journal of Obesity, April 9, 2013 Randomized controlled trial of the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan for weight loss, http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ijo201343a.html

  3. Huffington Post, How Diet Soda Makes You Fat, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/diet-soda-health_b_2698494.html

  4. Mayo Clinic, Low-Sodium Diet - Why Is Processed Food So Salty? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00350 

  5. HelpGuide.org, Healthy Eating - Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking to It, http://helpguide.org/life/healthy_eating_diet.htm