VLC-Diets, and why they are harmful

VLCD stands for very low calorie diets or diets that range from 800 calories to 300 calories. One thousand calorie diets can also be classified as a VLCD but most papers that I read generally refer to them as simistarvation diets. Starvation is defined as eating at 50% below your calorie maintenance level.

I'm making this topic because people are always opening new threads asking about VLC-Diets and the most people can say is that they are unhealthly diets with no real reason why. Most people never dig any deeper into the subject then to say that starvation diets would result in loss of muscle mass. This generally results in people doing the VLC-diet anyway and not knowing the real harmful side effects. Hopefully the information I am giving about my own personal experience and what I have found will help those considering the use of VLC-Diets make a better choice.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, VLC-Diets can and has resulted in sudden death to many individuals by way of ventricular arrhythmia. Basically what happens is that, when you are using a starvation diet, you are also starving your heart of the proper nutrients which will result in irregular heart beats or heart palpitations. You don't have to be an anorexic to starve your heart. After a prolonged period of time, your heart will literally speed up or slow down. This goes for both obese and normal looking individuals. From my own experience, your heart will speed up for a good 1 or 2 minutes on a random day which causes you to lose oxygen. The end result is death which I am fortunate enough not let happen to me. Below, is a link to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition about Cardiac effects of Starvation diets for those who want more facts on what exactly causes irregular heart beats on a starvation diet. The AJCN is basically a comprehensive scientifically written health book for those that don't know.

I can't say that a VLCD is completely harmful because the Journal does mention that a well-supplemented VLC-Diet has a less adverse effect on the heart but as to what the proper nutrition is during a VLC-Diet can be, I do not know and it should be something that you should consult a doctor about if you are seriously considering this but I think the possibility of death far outweighs any positive of the research.


This part and below is my own written experience with a VLC-Diet. I'd be lying to you if I said VLCD do not work. From my own experience, they are the fastest way at losing weight. I could literally drop 1 pound of body fat a day with the combination of a 50 minute exercise routine. I don't know if a VLC-Diet would work without exercise since I was an exercise nut when I was younger, making it an appointment to do at least 48 mins of cardio a day. My diet was mainly composed of high carbs and low protein because I needed the carbs for enough energy when I went to workout. Most of the time, I would aim to eat no more then 1000 calories a day but I'd be proud of myself if I only ate 500 calories day because it felt like such an accomplishment every time I looked at the scale to see what I netted for the day. If i gained 10 or 15 pounds over a holiday, I'd just do my VLC-Diet to drop the weight.

However, the problem with this is that it was causing heart palpitations. As described earlier, my heart would speed up to the point that I was not getting enough oxygen to my head. I spent 3 years going in and out of a hospital getting my blood drawn and tested. I never got a chance to speak to a cardiologist because my tests always came back negative. The reason that my blood tests never showed anything unusual is because a vast majority of doctors are always testing for obesity related symptoms when dealing with the heart. I eventually stopped going to the hospital and seeing doctors because it was really just wasting my time having to carry around a heart monitor, going to the hospital, and running on their treadmill. I eventually settled with 1 doctor who left my file open so that he would consult with various heart specialist about what my problem could be. After of years of consulting, his best diagnosis was something is wrong with the electrical signals inside of my heart. Never once, did a single doctor ask me about my eating habits because I looked like a healthy young individual. It wasn't until I gained some weight that my random heart palpitations had stopped, allowing me to put 2 and 2 together. After coming up with my theory, i just plugged it inside of google and came across a good read from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that I feel would help people make better choices when considering a VLC-Diet.


  • mdj1501
    mdj1501 Posts: 392 Member
    Awesome article! I too have occasional arrhythmia patterns that I have felt for a long time are diet related. I can't tell you how many EKGs, holter monitors, and tests I have had only to find nothing and leave me to pay $$$$. Thank you for making feel like I am not crazy!! :drinker:
  • Quasita
    Quasita Posts: 1,530 Member
    I just posted an extensive article about the dangers of coming off of a VLCD...

    I'm glad I'm not the only one "fighting the good fight" against this harmful practice.
  • amyy902
    amyy902 Posts: 290 Member
    i too have read a lot of papers on this subject. i think they have their place however they should only ever be used in guidence with a doctor.
    EPICUREASIAN Posts: 147 Member
    Thanks for sharing this info!
  • Bentley2718
    Bentley2718 Posts: 1,690 Member
    I am sure that the OP is trying to be helpful, and I appreciate that, but I'd like to mention a couple of things, before you take this as gospel.

    (1) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is NOT a book, it is a per-reviewed professional journal in nutrition. What that means is that it is one place that scientists working in the area of nutrition can publish their results, IF the article is approved by a group of their peers (usually 3) referred to as reviewers.

    (2) The problem in relying on a single study to make broad claims about things is that another study could easily come along that contradicts the study you are looking at. For all you know, there are 10, or 20 contradictory studies that have been published in this or similar journals (although that would typically be mentioned in the text of the article, this is not always the case). This does not necessarily mean that either study is "wrong" it just means that more work is needed so that researchers can understand why the results conflict. Sometimes review articles are published that will synthesize research on a given topic, these are likely to be more complete, but not definitive. There are books published that attempt to synthesize broad areas of research, including textbooks and books written by experts for non-experts, relying on sources such as these is probably better than attempting to draw conclusions from individual journal articles.

    To be clear, I'm not advocating very low calorie diets, especially when one is not under the close care of a physician who specializes in them. I am merely trying to address an issue I see in the manner the OP makes their argument.
  • AbsoluteNG
    AbsoluteNG Posts: 1,079 Member
    Awesome article! I too have occasional arrhythmia patterns that I have felt for a long time are diet related. I can't tell you how many EKGs, holter monitors, and tests I have had only to find nothing and leave me to pay $$$$. Thank you for making feel like I am not crazy!! :drinker:

    I'm assuming that you had yourself on a VLC-Diet? How many calories were you eating or netting a day?