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Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help Diabetics?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Fred Layno · Updated Mar 31, 2023

    Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help Diabetics?

    Weight loss is an important therapeutic target for overweight or obese diabetics. Meal replacement shakes and nutrition bars are just some of the things that can help achieve this. These are simple yet effective weight loss aids for people with obesity or diabetes. These products show advantages over a voluntary diet for weight loss. 

    What is Meal Replacement? 

    Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a serious global public health problem due to its increased incidence and significant impact on patients and society. About 8.8% of adults worldwide suffer from DM. Doctors often recommend meal replacements to manage diabetes. 

    A meal replacement (MR) is a low-calorie drink or bar that contains vitamin- and mineral-enriched proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Meal replacement shakes are available in a variety of flavors, either readymade or in powder form. MR products help promote and control weight loss. Some can also help in increasing strength and vitality.

    Meal replacements are available under a variety of brands. They are basically a complete low-calorie alternative to one or more of an individual’s daily diet. 

    Using MR as the sole or partial source of nutrition can help achieve caloric deficiency and allow weight loss. In fact, some medical institutions, such as the American Dietetic Association, argue that using MR may be a good weight loss strategy for some people. 

    Benefits of Meal Replacement

    Some patients are at increased risk of developing excess fat and may have difficulty losing weight. In these cases, calorie-controlled MR programs can be beneficial. In addition to being a convenient and effective weight loss tool, MR products also help in reducing the need to think about what meals to eat during the day. 

    It also eliminates the need for portion control and calorie counting. People have found that the MR diet is preferable because it reduces food-related decisions and reduces calorie-dense foods. MR products are delivered in a calorie-controlled, pre-measured format, eliminating the need for partial management. 

    People with type 2 diabetes may have difficulty losing weight because of medications that may promote weight gain. Insulin, sulfonylureas, glinides, and thiazolidinediones, are one some of the examples of diabetic medications associated with excessive weight gain.

    The use of shakes and bars has many advantages in weight management. It provides a given amount of food with known calorie levels, eliminating the need to measure, weigh, or estimate the amount of food. 

    MR products are simple that do not require any preparation or cleaning. Many people prefer to use these easy and convenient preparations rather than spending time and energy preparing and cleaning up after meals. 

    In addition, these shakes and bars can further promote weight loss through certain sensory-specific satiety. Sensory-specific satiety refers to the diminished joy of tasting, smelling, and eating the same food or drink until satisfied. 

    Studies on Meal Replacements

    A 2003 study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders was conducted on 487 participants aged 18 years and older, with and without diabetes mellitus. 

    The study, conducted in six randomized controlled trials, showed that participants who received an MR shake lost more weight than those who received a regular calorie diet.

    In another study done in 2003, MR shakes made in soybeans produced significant weight loss when given to overweight or obese adults. Their total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) also showed positive changes after the 12-week prospective study. 

    Meal Replacement Recommendations

    The American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) nutritional recommendations for diabetes recognize that using meal replacement products once or twice daily to replace a regular diet can result in significant weight loss. 

    However, these recommendations suggest that dietary replacement therapy should be maintained indefinitely to lose weight. Maintaining an accurate food journal is also a recognized component of a comprehensive weight loss program. Meal replacement shakes and nutrition bars help nutritionists not only track their patients’ weight, but also track a more accurate calorie intake for them.

    Learn more about Diabetes here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Fred Layno · Updated Mar 31, 2023

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