Are meal replacements healthy?

by | Jan 27, 2021 | NUTRITIONAL GUIDE, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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New types of products have arrived in supermarkets, but they do not necessarily fall into this category. They provide an answer to the lack of time by offering a new version of the meal substitute. Indeed the definition is limited to products aimed at weight loss. But wanting to maintain your weight and have a balanced diet does not mean trying to lose weight and eat “low-calorie” food!

For the moment it is still a bit of a legal vacuum but it is important to know that this new type of diet is for all adult people who wish to maintain a healthy lifestyle and who from time to time prefer to replace a low-end sandwich with a full meal.

These new substitutes often have the advantage of being gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, and provide enough calories, protein, fiber, and micronutrients. There are also many other versions such as high-protein meals in powder form or for sportsmen. But what about the absorption of all these elements within our body? Be careful to choose carefully because the production methods and ingredients are not systematically exemplary.

The consumption of these meal substitutes is not intended to be made daily, it is a solution to limit the consumption of these meal substitutes to 1 or 2 times a week maximum.


  • Increased hunger

Meal replacements can disrupt certain hormones, including :

– Ghrelin, which is a powerful hunger hormone. The higher it is, the hungrier we get.

– CCK, which is an intestinal hormone. The less it is secreted, the hungrier we are.

Although these substitutes are often promoted for their high protein and fiber content, studies have shown that with a meal substitute, the level of hunger does not decrease compared to a solid meal which is much less rich in protein and fiber than the substitute!

This is partly due to the faster gastrointestinal transit time (than the solid), which limits the optimal release of nutrients, having a direct impact on the different hormones and triggering the satiety signal.

In general, solid foods reduce hunger faster than liquid foods.

But beware, we will see that solid meal replacements (in the form of bars for example) are not a better alternative.

  • Increased risk of bacterial infections

The majority of these products are in the form of liquid meals and therefore do not represent any chewing effort. This can cause a variety of concerns. Chewing is not just mechanical, it is also chemical.

Saliva is very complex biologically. It acts on our brain, our digestion (thanks to enzymes), the aromas and flavors we perceive, etc. It is a very complex biological product.

There are 2 types of saliva:

  • a “resting” saliva
  • a so-called “stimulated” saliva

So no chewing, no stimulated saliva. And not having stimulated saliva makes it easier for pathogens to pass through, which can cause bacterial infections.

Not to mention the fact that the health of your teeth and gums is declining and they become increasingly fragile due to the lack of stimulation.

  • Poor absorption of nutrients

Whether liquid or solid, manufacturers are promoting products that contain all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed to make up a complete meal, but absorption is far from optimal!

The matrix (= structure of the molecules) that composes these products is synthetic, meaning that the ingredients no longer have their natural structure inside because they have undergone numerous thermal, mechanical, and other processes. All this has a direct impact on the bioavailability of nutrients, greatly reducing assimilation and therefore health benefits.

The list of ingredients of these substitutes is often very long you will notice and unfortunately, some of the added ingredients do not mix well together. This is the case of all the vitamins and minerals added by manufacturers in synthetic forms, which can be harmful and dangerous to health.

Here are a few examples that are often found in this type of products and the effects they can cause:

– Synthetic group B vitamins
➔ carcinogenic for the most part, disrupt cell balance and flow exchanges.

– Addition of iron (gluconate or fumarate)
➔ creation of free radicals (attacks and damages your cells + risk of inflammations)

– Presence of hot extracted oils (especially sunflower)
➔ creation of carcinogenic substances for the body (peroxides)

– Adding copper
➔ dangerous in synthetic form for the organism.

– Competition between different vitamins
➔ being synthetic, they do not have their natural carriers and their absorption is inhibited.

– Addition of additives such as silicon dioxide (E551)
➔ risk of immune reaction in the colon + risk of creating cancer cells.

– Addition of emulsifiers
➔ inflammation of the intestinal barrier, the problem of absorption.

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  • Increased insulin levels and fat intake

Consumers of this type of liquid meal have a higher insulin level after the meal, and may therefore develop insulin resistance over the medium/long term.

There is a real disruption of insulin signals.

Your various organs such as your liver and muscles may have a decreased sensitivity to insulin and thus enter into a vicious circle, secreting more insulin and storing more fat.

Besides, the first ingredient of the product is often sugar (under different names such as maltodextrin, glucose-fructose syrup, etc.) because it is much cheaper for manufacturers.


These products remain to be consumed very occasionally, they are of uneven quality and often expensive.

Lack of chewing is a real problem for digestion and satiety. A bar or a milkshake will never replace a daily meal.

There is no miracle method, give priority to a diet with raw products (as little processed as possible), local and from organic farming!

The article was written by Yann de Foodvisor

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