The Cambridge Diet

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The Cambridge Diet is a weight loss plan in which 415 to 1500 kcal are consumed per day, principally from commercial products sold as part of the diet regime.[1][2] These products are manufactured in the UK and include shakes, meal replacement bars, soups and smoothies

The Cambridge Diet was rebranded as Cambridge Weight Plan in January 2010. The diet is available in more than 35 countries around the world. It is not affiliated to the US version of the diet - Cambridge Original and Cambridge Food for Life.

The diet is a VLCD plan (very low calorie diet) and can result in rapid and sustained weight loss if managed properly, with participants maintaining weight loss by gradually increasing calorie intake. It is a low-carbohydrate 'ketogenic' diet which forces the body to burn its fat stores instead of carbohydrates as energy which studies[3] have shown is a more effective way of losing weight than simply reducing calories[4][5]

Development and Reception[edit]

The Cambridge Diet was developed in 1970 by Dr. Alan Howard at Cambridge University, England. It was launched as a commercial product in the United States in 1980. The Diet was very popular in America but was also the subject of some controversy.[6] It later came under scrutiny from regulators and health authorities after potential health concerns were raised.[7] In the UK, the Cambridge Diet was launched in 1984. In 1986 the Diet was reformulated to adhere to recommendations made by the Commission on Medical Aspects (COMA)[8]

Although people taking the diet lose weight very quickly at first, the diet is recommended in 12 week timescales with a week of solid food.[2] The British Dietetic Association list the possible adverse side effects as including "bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation", and say that any person eating fewer than 600 kcal per day should be medically supervised.[2]


The core of the Diet in the UK is a very-low-calorie diet (VLCD), as low as 415 calories/day,[2] combined with minerals, vitamins and fatty acids to reduce the loss of nutrients typical of low calorie restriction. Participants are advised to drink water freely.

The diet formula is intended to imitate the weight loss properties of starvation, while providing enough protein to protect lean tissue, the right level of carbohydrate to promote a mild ketosis and eliminate a sense of hunger, and the right levels of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and essential fatty acids to maintain good health. The meals are intended to combine all necessary food groups to satisfy a body’s nutritional needs, in order to allow a person to stop craving foods and overeating. Initially, the diet only makes use of meal replacement supplements in the form of porridges, shakes and soups. Gradually solid foods are introduced into the meal plan.


  1. ^ Porcello LA (1984). "A practical guide to fad diets". Clin Sports Med 3 (3): 723–9. PMID 6571242. 
  2. ^ a b c d British Dietetic Association (14 December 2014). "Top diets review for 2016". NHS Choices. 
  3. ^ "Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  4. ^ Foster, Gary D.; Wyatt, Holly R.; Hill, James O.; McGuckin, Brian G.; Brill, Carrie; Mohammed, B. Selma; Szapary, Philippe O.; Rader, Daniel J.; Edman, Joel S. (2003-05-22). "A Randomized Trial of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet for Obesity". New England Journal of Medicine 348 (21): 2082–2090. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa022207. ISSN 0028-4793. PMID 12761365. 
  5. ^ Samaha, Frederick F.; Iqbal, Nayyar; Seshadri, Prakash; Chicano, Kathryn L.; Daily, Denise A.; McGrory, Joyce; Williams, Terrence; Williams, Monica; Gracely, Edward J. (2003-05-22). "A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity". New England Journal of Medicine 348 (21): 2074–2081. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa022637. ISSN 0028-4793. PMID 12761364. 
  6. ^ "Dietician Describes Cambridge Diet as 'Wishful Thinking'". Los Angeles Times. 24 June 1982. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  7. ^ "Medical Researchers Urge Caution in Use of Cambridge Diet". The New York Times. 25 November 1983. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  8. ^ "Report on Health and Social Scientific Co-Operation No 31. The Use of Very Low Calorie Diets in Obesity. Committee in Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) DHSS 1987 (HMSO)".