Optavia Review: Does the Diet Actually Work?

Optavia Review: Does the Diet Actually Work?


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Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to weight loss.

Optavia is a weight loss program that includes coaching and a packaged meal plan. The company claims that their program is clinically proven to work, and offers a set of different diet plans at various price points.

But is Optavia actually proven effective? Are the meals healthy? What are real users saying about the program?

In this article we’ll seek to answer these questions and more. We'll review a medical study which tested Optavia for weight loss, as well as the ingredients in some of their meals, to give our take on whether Optavia is a healthy and effective option for weight loss.

Does Optavia Cause Weight Loss?

We located one clinical trial, published in the Obesity Science & Practice journal, which tested the effectiveness of Optavia for weight loss. It had generally favorable results. 

The study duration was 16 weeks, and compared three diets: Optavia, Medifast and a self-directed reduced calorie diet.

Both of the commercial diets yielded better results than the self-directed diet, which is unsurprising since the commercial diets are portion-controlled (which means they provide a fixed number of calories per day), while people on a self-directed diet have to weigh and measure their own food and caloric intake, which creates more chance for human error.

Patients on the Optavia diet lost slightly more weight than patients on the Medifast diet. Those eating Optavia meals lost an average of 11.46 pounds.

The meal plan used in the trial was Optavia’s 5&1 Plan, which can be purchased through their website.

While it's always a good sign that a commercial meal plan has legitimate clinical backing, we'd like to see trials over longer periods than 16 weeks.

It’s well-established that overweight patients can lose weight over short periods of time using portion control. It’s continuing to lose and maintaining that weight loss over longer periods of time that’s often the challenge. This is why the majority of individuals that lose weight on a weight loss program regain the weight, according to a 2019 medical review.

Optavia does provide coaching which should help, since an online support system is proven in medical research to aid in weight loss efforts.

Overall we will consider Optavia likely to be effective for short-term weight loss. However, we would need to see clinical trials with longer durations to consider the program effective for long-term weight loss.

Are Optavia Meals Healthy?

Optavia meals, also called Optavia Fuelings, are relatively processed and low in naturally-occurring nutrients. Optavia compensates for this by adding vitamins and minerals to most of their formulations.

Here are the first five meals listed on the 5&1 Plan from Optavia’s website at the time of writing this article:

  • Smoky BBQ Crunchers
  • Silky Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Bar
  • Creamy Chocolate Shake
  • Drizzled Chocolate Fudge Crisp Bar
  • Wild Strawberry Shake

These do not sound like nutritious meals in our opinion. Eating highly processed foods is definitively associated in medical research with negative health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and depression. 

Optavia Smoky BBQ Crunchers ingredients

The above ingredients list is from the Smoky BBQ Crunches, and is an unbelievably extensive ingredients list for a small packaged food.

This product contains added sugar and natural flavorings, as well as a notice that the meal "CONTAINS BIOENGINEERED FOOD INGREDIENTS." 

The majority of ingredients in this formulation are a blend of vitamins and minerals. We do not recommend consuming processed food products with added vitamins and minerals unless otherwise instructed by a doctor. Earlier this year the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that a wellness brand had to recall several products due to the added vitamins causing toxicity in some consumers, which explains our belief that it's illogical to regularly consume seemingly-random blends of added vitamins and minerals.

The Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Bar contains added sugar and hydrogenated oil, both of which may be harmful to human health according to medical research.

We recommend a diet comprised of whole foods with minimal processing. In our opinion, it's even possible to find healthy food at Dollar Tree that would make for better options than Optavia.

Healthiness certainly exists on a spectrum, but we do not consider Optavia meals to be healthy and would not recommend this meal plan based on the ingredients used.

Optavia Real User Review

One of the most popular reviews of Optavia on YouTube is published by a channel called "Beautifully Bookish Bethany" and has achieved over 130,000 views at the time of updating this article. 

The video appears unsponsored and the creator shares her experience with Optavia after one year:

Extremely Low Calorie Counts

Our issue with many commercial weight loss programs is we don't consider them to be sustainable long-term due to the relatively low calories provided. Simply cutting calories but continuing to eat a processed, unhealthy diet doesn’t work for many individuals long-term because of hunger cravings.

Optavia’s 5&1 Plan allows users to pick 6 daily meals. Each one has very low calories. Below are a few example meals and calorie counts per serving:

  • Tomato herb penne: 110 calories
  • Puffed Sweet & Salty Snacks: 50 calories
  • Creamy Vanilla Shake: 110 calories
  • Creamy Smashed Potatoes: 100 calories
  • Cinnamon Sugar Sticks: 100 calories

As you can see, most of these meals only consist of around 100 calories which is incredibly low even for someone eating 6 meals per day. This falls in line with the caloric intake of Optavia participants in the previously-referenced medical study: 800-1,000 calories/day.

Caloric needs vary greatly based on the individual, but the average woman needs around 2,000 calories a day and the average man about 2,500 calories a day, and these caloric maintenance figures increase for those who are overweight.

Very-low-calorie diets, defined as 800 or less calories a day, do not lead to greater long-term weight loss based on a medical review when compared with low-calorie diets. This is likely because compliance is so challenging.

Optavia’s diet plan is right on the verge of what’s medically defined as a “very-low-calorie diet”, and we don’t believe this diet model is sustainable for long-term weight loss. We consider a whole foods diet rich in dietary fiber to be a good option for people seeking to lose weight, because dietary fiber increases satiation and is associated with weight loss.

Optavia Lawsuit

In July of 2022, Optavia was sued in a class-action lawsuit over claims that the company was operating an illegal auto-renewal scheme. The lawsuit alleges that Optavia was enrolling customers in auto-renewal plans in a deceptive and illegal manner.

Several customer complaints on Optavia's Better Business Bureau (BBB) page allege similar. A user named "Bobbi B" claims that Optavia charged them without their consent or approval:

"When I opened the products, they were expired. I called the customer service number and they would not help me with a return or refund stating they could not find an order under my email address, I awoke this morning to another charge on my account, I've ordered nothing and did not sign up for auto delivery, and they still won't help since they cannot locate an order in my email address."

Questionable Vegetable Conversion Chart

Optavia vegetable conversion chart

Optavia has a "Vegetable Conversion Chart" that's meant to help consumers assess the caloric and carbohydrate content of vegetables by measuring in cups (because many consumers don't have a food scale but have a measuring cup).

Our issue with this chart is that it highlights vegetables in red, yellow, and green, which suggests that "red" vegetables which are higher in carbs should be avoided.

We disagree with disincentivizing individuals from consuming any vegetables, and the carb content of most vegetables is negligible. According to the USDA, one cup of broccoli, which is categorized as "red" by Optavia, provides 11.2 grams (g) of carbs, but only 6.06 g "net" carbs because of the fiber content. This is not a high amount of carbs, and eating vegetables can actually aid the dieting process because the fiber content increases fullness and satiation.

We have not come across any medical evidence suggesting that eating too many vegetables causes negative health or weight loss outcomes, nor does Optavia cite any on this page, so we consider this approach to be unscientific.

Optavia Diet Cost

The cost of Optavia depends on the program. The 5&1 program, which appears to be the most popular and is the diet plan that was studied in the clinical trial, currently costs $378.25 and contains 119 servings.

This equates to a daily cost of $19.07 per day, or $572.1 per month, assuming 5 meals and one snack per day as the program suggests.

We consider this to be a relatively expensive diet program. It's cheaper than premium options like Sakara, which we analyzed in our Sakara reviews article and which we consider to be a much healthier option than Optavia.

Optavia is more expensive than Nutrisystem on a monthly basis, and we would consider the two programs somewhat equivalent as they're both weight loss programs with research backing.

Our Weight Loss Supplement Recommendations

There exist several over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss supplements that don't require a prescription, and which have medical research backing.

We recommend dietary fiber as a safe and effective weight loss supplement, especially when combined with caloric restriction.

landmark medical study found that moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline) combined with dietary fiber intake (a minimum of 20 grams per day) caused an average weight loss of 16.03 pounds over 6 months. That’s a pace of 32 pounds per year of weight loss in overweight individuals simply by adding fiber to a moderately-restricted-calorie diet.

The fiber supplement we recommend is SuperGut Fiber Mix. It contains a clean and effective formulation: a blend of three different types of unflavored dietary fiber and zero additive ingredients. It can be mixed into liquids or foods. Interested consumers can buy SuperGut fiber at this link.

We recommend using two fiber mixes per day, which provides 16 grams (g) of total fiber. Diet should provide the remaining fiber necessary to meet the 20 g minimum threshold.

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is another dietary supplement which has been shown in clinical trials to cause weight loss.

MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and increases metabolic rate, which causes fat loss. A meta-study on MCT oil documented weight loss of 1.12 pounds over 10 weeks. This equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 5.84 pounds with MCT oil supplementation.

We recommend Bulletproof MCT Oil as our top MCT oil product, because it has a clean and effective formulation. The only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts, and the product has no questionable additives. Interested consumers can buy Bulletproof MCT Oil at this link.

The effective dose range of MCT oil for weight loss (based on the medical review) is 1.7 g to 10 g per day. Bulletproof's MCT oil provides 14 g in one tablespoon, so around two-thirds of one tablespoon should be a maximally-effective dosage.

Questionable Business Model

Optavia is a multi-level-marketing (MLM) business, which means that independent distributors called "Optavia Coaches" help sell their products.

We consider MLMs to be questionable business models from an ethical perspective, because they often rely on people with no relevant medical or scientific background to make health claims in regard to a brand's products or services.

Optavia's "Become a Coach" webpage does not list any medical requirements. Rather, the brand states they are seeking "like-minded, like-hearted" people. In our opinion, someone being "like-hearted" is a not a good qualifier for them making health claims about dieting and weight loss.

The phrase "Optavia ruined my life" gets 1,900 monthly searches at the time of updating this article, according to software tool SEMRush, and some of these results are published by coaching partners.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We consider Optavia likely to be successful for short-term weight loss, because it was proven so in a legitimate clinical trial. That trial found Optavia to be a better weight loss option than another commercial dieting plan called Medifast.

Our position is that extreme-low-calorie diets are not sustainable for long-term weight loss, and until research emerges proving Optavia to be successful long-term, we have our doubts.

We do not consider Optavia to be healthy, given that many Optavia meals contain a number of questionable additive ingredients that we recommend avoiding.

Optavia has recently been sued over claims of an illegal auto-renewal scheme.




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