Nearly 80% of meal-replacement shakes make claims that are ‘untrue’

The concept of weight loss, Green smoothie to go; Shutterstock ID 369867566; Purchase Order: -

Nearly 80% of meal-replacement weight-loss shakes make health claims that are ‘clearly exaggerated or simply untrue’, study finds

  • Some 79% of shakes have claims such as ‘protects against chronic diseases’
  • Other claims include ‘low GI’ despite there being no supporting evidence
  • Only 10 product in the UK contain sufficient information on their packaging
  • Remainder are not ‘meal replacement weight loss’ drinks according to EU law
  • European meal-replacement sales are expected to reach €940 million by 2020
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Nearly 80 per cent of meal-replacement shakes make health claims that are ‘clearly exaggerated or simply untrue’, new research suggests.

Many shakes that are marketed as a replacement to breakfast, lunch or dinner and are supposed to promote weight loss, make claims such as ‘protects against chronic diseases’ or ‘low in GI’ in 79 per cent of cases, a study found today.

This is despite there being no evidence supporting these messages.

The study, which did not name the shakes, also found only 10 out of the 50 shakes on the market in the UK contain sufficient information on their packaging to accurately be marketed as ‘meal replacement for weight loss’ drinks according to EU regulations.

Lead author Dr Kelly Johnston, from King’s College London, said: ‘Manufacturer’s misleading labelling is confusing consumers about the healthiness and nutritional quality of meal-replacement shakes. 

‘Some of these claims are clearly exaggerated and many are simply untrue.’

Around 63 per cent of adults in the UK are overweight or obese. European meal-replacement product sales are expected to reach €940 million by 2020.  

Nearly 80 per cent of meal-replacement shakes make claims that are ‘exaggerated’ (stock)


A blow out breakfast, ‘average’ lunch and small dinner may be the best combination for those suffering from diabetes or obesity, research suggested in March 2018.

Obese diabetes patients following such a diet lose 11lbs (5kg) over three months compared to a 3lb (1.4kg) weight gain for those eating the traditionally recommended weight-loss plan of six small meals a day, a study found.

Sticking to just three meals a day of varying sizes also reduces diabetics’ glucose levels and insulin requirements, as well as their hunger and carbohydrate cravings, the research adds.

Lead author Dr Daniela Jakubowicz, from Tel Aviv University, said: ‘The hour of the day — when you eat and how frequently you eat — is more important than what you eat and how many calories you eat.

‘Our body metabolism changes throughout the day.

‘A slice of bread consumed at breakfast leads to a lower glucose response and is less fattening than an identical slice of bread consumed in the evening.’ 

Results further suggest fasting glucose levels decrease by 54 mg/dl (from 161 to 107) in those eating three meals a day group compared to only 23 mg/dl (from 164 to 141) in those consuming six.

Healthy levels are considered to be less than 108 mg/dl. 

Having breakfast as the main meal of the day also significantly reduces the need for insulin by -20.5 units/day (from 54.7 to 34.8) compared to those spread out throughout the day, which requires people have 2.2 more units a day (from 67.8 to 70).

Overall amounts of glucose in the blood are also lower just 14 days after adopting a three meal a day eating plan. 

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed all commercially available ‘meal replacement weight control’ shakes sold in the UK in 2017.

Package labeling was assessed for its compliance with nutritional and health claims set out by EU regulations. 

EU legislation states any reported benefits listed on package labels must be clear, accurate and based on scientific evidence. 

The researchers also sent out questionnaires to 240 volunteers taking part in the LighterLife weight-loss programme to determine their understanding of shakes’ health claims. 

Over 50% of shake drinkers do not understand their health claims 

Results further suggest only 48 per cent of dieters understand claims such as ‘protects against chronic diseases’, while 53 per cent comprehend ‘low GI’.

Between 94-to-95 per cent understand claims like ‘low fat’, ‘low calorie’ and ‘high protein’. 

Dr Johnston said: ‘What we see from this group of consumers is that they generally have false perceptions about the efficacy of such products. 

‘In other words, even if they understand the claims, they often don’t believe what they are reading.

‘This study highlights the need for better enforcement to ensure products for sale meet the legally required compositional and labeling criteria which will both protect consumers whilst ensuring fair market competition.’ 

The findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna.  

Weight-loss surgery reduces the risk of deadly skin cancer by more than 60% 

This comes after research released earlier this month found weight-loss surgery reduces people’s risk of developing the deadliest form of skin cancer by more than 60 per cent.

People who have a gastric band or bypass are 61 per cent less likely to develop melanoma, which can spread to other organs, a study by the University of Gothenburg found yesterday.

Bariatric surgery lowers the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, which is less serious and rarely spreads, by 42 per cent, the research adds.

Researchers believe their findings suggest obesity is a risk factor for skin cancer. Previous studies suggest the two conditions share a genetic link.

It is unclear why weight loss lowers the risk of melanoma more than other forms of the disease.

Melanoma affects around 15,000 new people every year in the UK. 

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