Medifast Side Effects

By Sandra Ketcham

  • Overview

    Medifast is a weight loss program that uses individually packaged meals to encourage portion control and nutritional intake. Meals available through the Medifast program include soups, stews, shakes, oatmeal, eggs, beverages, puddings, chili and nutrition bars. Although side effects are usually mild and temporary, some people are at greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects when using the Medifast weight loss program. For this reason, the program should only be started after a full medical examination and under the supervision of a doctor.
  • Function

    Medifast works by creating a daily deficit of calories through its use of controlled portions. Limiting the amount of calories consumed each day causes the body to burn fat for energy while maintaining muscle mass. Medifast attempts to meet the nutritional needs of dieters by ensuring each Medifast meal contains all the required protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals of a standard, higher calorie meal. The rapid weight loss resulting from the caloric restriction required by the Medifast program may cause side effects in some people.
  • Side Effects

    Although most healthy adults that use the Medifast diet program do not experience any significant side effects, there is a potential for side effects in some people. Leg cramps are the most commonly reported side effect while on the Medifast program, with some users also experiencing dizziness, fatigue and lightheadedness. Rapid weight loss in women may result in increased blood levels of estrogen. This may affect the menstrual cycle and fertility. Women experiencing menstrual irregularities while using the Medifast program should speak with their ob-gyn for more information and for evaluation. Other side effects may include headache, diarrhea, gas, hair loss, bad breath, rashes, constipation and sensitivity to cold.

  • Prevention/Solution

    There are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the side effects associated with using the Medifast program to lose weight. Muscle cramps can be prevented or relieved by increasing hydration and potassium intake. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, gas, and diarrhea can be minimized by using over-the-counter remedies and increasing daily fiber consumption. Bad breath can be alleviated by chewing sugar-free gum, and hair loss can be prevented by taking a daily vitamin supplement that contains biotin.
  • Considerations

    Some Medifast dieters may require a greater number of daily calories than others, whether due to age, gender or activity level. When calorie restriction is minimal or moderate, weight loss occurs. However, severe caloric restriction may result in a number of serious side effects and health complications. To be both safe and effective, Medifast dieters must take into consideration the effects of activity, medications and overall health on their dieting goals while using the program.
  • Warning

    Some people should not use the Medifast weight loss program due to an increased risk of side effects and health complications. Children and those over the age of 70 years are at greatest risk of experiencing side effects while using the program. Anyone with diabetes, hypertension or severe food allergies should begin the Medifast program only while under careful supervision by a doctor. Moreover, those taking medications may find that they require alterations in dosing when using the program.
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