Side Effects of the Cambridge Diet

Smoothies pink in a glass
The Cambridge Diet initially was developed in the 1970s at Cambridge University as a low-calorie meal replacement consisting of three shakes daily. (Image: zia_shusha/iStock/Getty Images)

The Cambridge Diet initially was developed in the 1970s at Cambridge University as a low-calorie meal replacement consisting of three shakes daily. It claims to contain nutritionally complete meal replacements, according to Cambridgediet.com. For example, the original formula shakes contain 30 grams of protein and 110 calories per shake, for a total of 330 calories daily. different plans exist where clients consume between 400 and 800 calories daily. A variety of flavors are available, and are sold only by distributors or online. Several side effects are of concern.

Calorie Restriction

The severity of calorie restriction associated with this diet plan has been a constant source of controversy throughout its nearly 40 years of public availability. The Cambridge Diet can be classified as a VLCD, that is, a very low calorie diet, given the fact that clients typically consume fewer than 800 calories per day. Most physicians recommend a daily minimum of 1,200 calories, according to Dietspotlight.com. Indeed, most physicians consider the severe calorie restriction of the Cambridge Diet to be close to starvation levels.

Gallstones

One potential side effect of the Cambridge Diet as well as other VLCDs is the development of gallstones, that is, the diagnosis of cholelithiasis, as explained by Diet.com. Severe dieting to where weight is lost at the rapid rate of three or more pounds per week, increases a person’s risk of gallstones, according to Diet.com. Data indicate that one-fourth of people who go on VLCDs for several months end up being diagnosed with cholelithiasis; moreover, around one-third of these cases eventually require gallbladder surgery. If you have a personal or family history of gallbladder or bile duct problems, it is advised that you avoid VLCDs such as the Cambridge diet, and discuss options for weight loss with your doctor.

Ketosis

Another potentially serious consequence of the Cambridge Diet is that the body goes into the state of ketosis. Ketosis is when the body does not get the calories or nutrition it needs to use for energy, and starts not only burning its fat stores, but also its lean muscle mass, as explained by Diet.com. Ketosis is a common side effect of low-carbohydrate diets or VLCDs. Furthermore, as described by Diet.com, if such dieting is continued for an extended period of time, ketosis can result in serious damage to the kidneys and liver. However, the Cambridge Diet advises inducing ketosis as a healthy process for weight loss, of which most of the medical community strongly disagrees.

Dehydration

The website suggests that eight glasses of water or other liquids need to be consumed daily to avoid becoming dehydrated. Otherwise, you may experience dehydration symptoms such as constipation, dizziness, fatigue, and headaches.

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