Pharmacists play key role in very-low-calorie diets

Pharmacists should educate themselves on the mechanics of very low calorie diets (VLCD) in response to growing demand by patients, says a Brisbane dietitian.

Michele Pink says very-low calorie diets are not just “another fad diet” and have been backed by 30 years of research. 

“We honestly don’t recommend anyone to do it without being under medical supervision from a doctor or pharmacist,” says Ms Pink, a speaker at the APP2016 conference on the Gold Coast.  

This means doctors and pharmacists should be across the “ins and outs” of the program to prepare for inquiries from patients interested in trying out the program, says Ms Pink, who is associated with Good Health Nutrition and Dietetics.

VLCDs keep calorie intake to less than 800kcal per day, are nutritionally complete, restrict carbohydrates to enhance fat mobilisation through ketosis and come in formulated products such as shakes.

Ms Pink emphasises that this is very different from meal replacements, which are pre-packaged selection of foods and sold as a replacement for one or two daily meals.

A VLCD program should be recommended for anyone with a BMI over 30, or a BMI of 27 if they have comorbidities such as high blood pressure.

The VLCD works by primarily restricting carbohydrates and promoting the process of ketosis, which forces the body to burn fat stores.   

Ms Pink says people undergoing ketosis for the first time may find it quite confronting, as it may cause hunger, headaches, tiredness and fatigue during the first three days.

But this goes away after 4-6 days.

“Don’t be scared of ketosis. Understanding the benefits of ketosis and mechanisms behind how VLCDs work will greatly increase your confidence to be able to use them with your clients and therefore your overall success in the management of obesity,” says Ms Pink.  

Doctors and pharmacists should also be across possible side-effects such as constipation, which can be dealt with by recommending extra fluid intake and more vegetables in the diet.

Participants could expect to lose 1-2kg a week, and up to 20kg after 12 weeks, she adds.

But patients should consult their doctor or pharmacist after undergoing the VLCD for 12 weeks.

“I suppose the next steps are to look at what next after VLCDs in order to maintain weight loss and this is where low carbohydrate diets may play a bigger role than we had previously thought.”

Pharmacists play key role in very-low-calorie diets

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