What Are the Health Risks of Nutrisystem?

By Jennifer M. Roberts

  • Overview

    NutriSystem is a popular diet used by millions of people worldwide. It essentially provides prepared food and a meal plan for its users, as well as a supportive online environment. It customizes plans based on gender, age, health conditions and food preference. The goal of the diet is to help you look better, feel better and improve your health. However, the health risks associated with using NutriSystem are in debate. The following article will discuss the health risks of NutriSystem.
  • History

    According to the their website "NutriSystem, Inc. has been helping America get thin and healthy for the past 35 years...[NutriSystem] became a publicly traded company in October of 1999." The company has online and telephonic counseling as well as actual offices to visit counselors to help support dietary changes in addition to the custom meal planning and food delivery system.
  • Considerations

    When determining what method is best for weight loss, you need to consider several issues. What is your biggest barrier to weight loss? Does NutriSystem address that? Can you afford the program? Do you have the will power to stick to the prescribed meals and snacks only throughout the day? These are all important questions to answer before deciding to try the NutriSystem program.

  • Warnings

    There is debate over health risks of the NutriSystem. For one, although the meals are nutritionally balanced with 60 percent carbs, 20 percent fat and 20 percent protein, this may not always be the best formulation for all people. A major switch in food consumption can cause health problems like constipation, headaches and irritability. Secondly, in order to maintain palatable but low-calorie food, the products often use artificial sweeteners which are not necessarily considered healthy and have shown questionable results in research on animals. Lastly, the counselors of the program are not required to be licensed dietitians. Dietary analysis and recommendations are extremely important and can have health implications, especially in people with medical conditions, who have allergies and who are on medications. Therefore, a certified professional is preferred.
  • Expert Insights

    In an article on WebMD.com, Kathleen M. Zelman highlights expert debate over the effectiveness of the NutriSystem. She writes: "...Nationally known diabetes expert and author Marion Franz, MS, RD, CDE, says that while the glycemic index is useful for people with diabetes, it has no redeeming value as a weight loss tool. But Harvard endocrinologist and pediatric professor David Ludwig, MD, says he has successfully used a glycemic index-based diet plan to help many children and families lose weight."
  • Conclusion

    In the end, you must carefully evaluate your need for weight loss and if NutriSystem seems like a good fit for you. You should discuss all major dietary shifts with your medical provider in advance so she can advise you on whether or not the NutriSystem program poses any health risks to you.
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