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The Cambridge Diet

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The Cambridge Diet was a very-low-calorie meal replacement fad diet developed in the 1960s.[1] The diet launched with different versions in the US and the UK.[1] The US version filed for bankruptcy[2] and shut down shortly after the deaths of several dieters.[3] The UK diet has also been known as the Cambridge Weight Plan, but is now known as The 1:1 Diet.[4]


The Cambridge Diet was initially used and developed in hospital weight loss programs in the 1960s by Alan Howard at Cambridge University, England. Rights to the original Cambridge powder formula in the United States were obtained by Cambridge Direct Sales in 1979, and after improvements for flavor the Cambridge diet was launched as a commercial product in the United States in 1980. Howard created his own, different flavor improvements and launched a commercial UK version of the Cambridge diet in 1984. Since 2005 the UK company that makes the product is Cambridge Nutritional Foods Limited.[1]

The US diet was very popular in the 1980s but was also the subject of some controversy.[5] It came under scrutiny from regulators and health authorities after potential health concerns were raised.[6] Under pressure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the calorie intake was raised from 330 kcal/day to 800 kcal/day.[7] In 1985 Cambridge Diet Plan paid a six figure sum to settle a case brought by the family of a 31 year old woman who had died while following the Cambridge Diet. The FDA stated that eight such deaths were "potentially linked" to the Cambridge diet.[8] In the early 1980s there were six documented deaths of people following the Cambridge liquid diet.[9]

In 1987 a UK government Health Department report was critical of evidence submitted by Cambridge Nutrition – the working group responsible were not convinced by claims that the Cambridge Diet achieved protein sparing as well as conventional calorie restricted diets, and were concerned about conservation of lean tissue during dieting.[10]


Food is principally in liquid form[1][11][7] and includes soups, shakes, bars, and meals sold as part of the diet.[12] Most of the meal replacement products sold as part of the diet are manufactured in the UK.[citation needed] As of 2006 3 servings of the liquid diet had a macronutrient composition of 43 g of protein, 42 g of carbohydrate and 8 g of fat, supplemented with micronutrients.[13]

1:1 Diet

As of 2019 the diet was renamed the "1:1 diet". The 1:1 Diet is categorized as a very-low-calorie diet. The diet plan has 6 variants or "steps." The first step consists of 3-4 products totaling at least 600 kcal per day. The remaining steps reintroduce regular meals and remove the 1:1 products in various combinations.[12]


The Cambridge diet has been characterized as a fad diet[14] due to its starvation-level calorie intake, extreme weight loss,[11] and its rapid rise and fall in popularity in the 1980s.[7]

Modern guidelines state that a diet of less than 1000 kcal/day should not be followed for more than 12 weeks, and a diet of less than 600kcal/day should have medical supervision.[15], as very-low-calorie diets can lead to sudden death by cardiac arrest.[16] When it was launched in 1980 the diet specified an intake of 330 kcal/day, and as recently as 2019 allowed an intake of 450 kcal/day.[17] While there is some evidence that these types of diets result in short term weight loss, there is little evidence of long term benefit.[1]

There are concerns regarding the cost due to the fact that people must buy at least two weeks of product at a time.[1] The British Dietetic Association lists the possible adverse side effects as including "bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation".[citation needed] The American Academy of Family Physicians recommended avoiding fad diets.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets. Bukupedia. 2008. p. 152. ISBN 9781414429915.
  2. ^ Brody, Jane E. (16 November 1983). "PERSONAL HEALTH". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  3. ^ Walsh, James. You Can't Cheat an Honest Man: How Ponzi Schemes and Pyramid Frauds Work and why They're More Common Than Ever. Silver Lake Publishing. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-56343-169-2. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  4. ^ "The 1:1 Diet - FAQs". The Cambridge Weight Plan. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Dietician Describes Cambridge Diet as 'Wishful Thinking'". Los Angeles Times. 24 June 1982. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  6. ^ "Medical Researchers Urge Caution in Use of Cambridge Diet". The New York Times. 25 November 1983. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  7. ^ a b c Thomas RJ (1995). New Product Success Stories: Lessons from Leading Innovators. John Wiley & Sons. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-471-01320-4.
  8. ^ "Diet Firm Pays In Death Of Woman". Associated Press. 28 February 1985.
  9. ^ Berg FM (1999). "Health Risks Associated With Weight Loss and Obesity Treatment Programs". Journal of Social Issues. 55 (2): 285. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00116. Deaths associated with VLCDs have been documented for more than 25 years. At least 58 people died from liquid protein diets in the 1970s, and six deaths were documented in the early 1980s from the Cambridge liquid diet
  10. ^ Keen H, et al. (Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy – Working Group on Very Low Calorie Diets) (1987), Report on Health and Social Subjects 31: The Use of Very Low Calorie Diets in Obesity (PDF), HMSO
  11. ^ a b Porcello LA (1984). "A practical guide to fad diets". Clin Sports Med. 3 (3): 723–9. doi:10.1016/S0278-5919(20)31315-6. PMID 6571242.
  12. ^ a b Smith, Faye M.; Martin, Rachael (13 January 2021). "The Cambridge Diet Plan: how does it work and can it help you lose weight?". Woman and Home Magazine. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  13. ^ Webster-Gandy J, Madden A, Holdsworth M, eds. (2006). Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics. Oxford University Press. p. 413. ISBN 0198567251.
  14. ^ a b "Fad Diets: What You Need to Know". American Academy of Family Physicians. 2005. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
  15. ^ "Top diets review". NHS UK. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2019. A VLCD that involves eating 1,000 calories or fewer should not be followed for more than 12 continuous weeks. If you're eating fewer than 600 calories a day, you should have medical supervision.
  16. ^ Isner JM, Sours HE, Paris AL, Ferrans VJ, Roberts WC (December 1979). "Sudden, unexpected death in avid dieters using the liquid-protein-modified-fast diet. Observations in 17 patients and the role of the prolonged QT interval". Circulation. 60 (6): 1401–12. doi:10.1161/01.cir.60.6.1401. PMID 498466.
  17. ^ "What's the Plan". Cambridge Weight Plan. 15 April 2019.

External links

Official Corporate Site