Optavia is a weight loss program that includes coaching and meal delivery. The company claims that their program is clinically proven to work, and "designed by physicians, dietitians and scientists."
But is Optavia actually proven in clinical research to cause weight loss? And if so, how much average weight loss was achieved on their program? Are the meals healthy? And how do real users rate and describe the effects of the Optavia diet?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review results from the clinical trial that tested Optavia for weight loss.
We'll also analyze the ingredients in some of the brand's meals to give our take on whether they're healthy or not, and share real, unsponsored user reviews of Optavia.
Does Optavia Cause Weight Loss?
A clinical trial published in the Obesity Science & Practice journal tested the effects of the Optavia diet on weight loss.
The study lasted 16 weeks, and compared three diets: Optavia, Medifast and a self-directed, reduced-calorie diet.
Trial participants on the Optavia diet lost slightly more weight than those on the Medifast diet. Those eating Optavia meals lost an average of 11.46 pounds.
The Optavia meal plan used in the trial was Optavia’s "5 & 1 Plan," which is currently available on the brand's website.
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.
This study was actually funded by Medifast, not Optavia, which makes the results even more unbiased and legitimate.
We'd like to see a longer trial before recommending the program. We know from medical research that significantly restricting calories often results in rebound weight gain.
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 consider Optavia likely to be effective for weight loss in the short-and-medium term, given that the program is clinically proven to be effective and its online coaching feature should further improve results.
We do not recommend the program overall because we don't consider the meals to be healthy, as we'll discuss in the following section.
Are Optavia Meals Healthy?
The above ingredients list is from Optavia's Smoky BBQ Crunchers, and strikes us as a large number of ingredients for a 100 calorie snack.
We consider Optavia meals, also called Optavia Fuelings, to be relatively processed and we recommend eating whole foods that are free of questionable additive ingredients.
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 sound like desserts, not nutritious meals. Eating highly processed foods is definitively associated in medical research with negative health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and depression.
Optavia Smoky BBQ Crunchers contains added sugar and natural flavorings, as well as a notice that the meal "CONTAINS BIOENGINEERED FOOD INGREDIENTS."
Citric acid is another ingredient included, and is a preservative and flavor enhancer that appears to cause whole-body inflammation in a small subset of individuals according to a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal.
The majority of ingredients in this formulation are a blend of vitamins and minerals, and Optavia states on their website that all of their Fuelings contain 24 vitamins and minerals.
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 supplemental vitamins and minerals without a deficiency in those vitamins and minerals.
Healthiness certainly exists on a spectrum, but there are a number of questionable ingredients in Optavia Fuelings, and for this reason we don't recommend the program overall from a health perspective.
We recommend a diet comprised of whole foods with minimal processing. As we found in one of our nutrition reviews, it's even possible to find healthy food at Dollar Tree that we'd recommend over Optavia.
We consider a whole-foods-based meal delivery service like Daily Harvest to be a healthier option than Optavia.
Real, Unsponsored Optavia User Reviews
The most popular YouTube video on Optavia comes from the Today show, has been viewed well over 1 million times, and interviews someone who lost over 330 pounds on Optavia:
A YouTube user named "Feliciannurse" shared what a full week of Optavia-approved Lean and Green recipes look like. Keep in mind that the one daily "Lean & Green" meal is recommended but not provided by Optavia:
Why Was Optavia Sued?
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 has a "Vegetable Conversion Chart" that's meant to help customers assess the caloric and carbohydrate content of vegetables by measuring in cups (because many people 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 people from consuming any vegetables, and the carb content of most vegetables is negligible.
According to the USDA, half a cup of broccoli, which is categorized as "red" by Optavia, provides only 5.6 grams (g) of carbs, but only 3.03 g "net" carbs after subtracting fiber. This serving contains only 27 calories.
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories, which fills up the stomach and can help reduce cravings and binging on high-calorie processed foods like pizza. This makes them perfect for a healthy diet plan.
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.
How Much Does Optavia 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 $395.25 and contains 119 servings.
Assuming 5 servings per day as their plan outlines, this equates to a daily cost of $16.6 in Optavia Fuelings. Consumers will still need to purchase ingredients for the one "Lean & Green" daily meal on their own.
Given that the Optavia program includes coaching, we consider this to be a pretty reasonable daily cost.
It's worth noting that Optavia is slightly 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 clinical research backing.
Can Food Supplements Cause Weight Loss?
There are several food-based weight loss supplements with significant research backing.
Dietary fiber is associated with weight loss in clinical trials, especially when combined with caloric restriction.
A 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, which costs $59.
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 to the product page on the brand's website.
We recommend using two fiber mixes per day, which provides 16 g of fiber. Diet should provide the remaining fiber necessary to meet the 20 g minimum threshold.
MCT oil is derived from coconuts, 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 to the product page on the brand's website. This supplement only costs $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.
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.
We're not suggesting that either of these supplements is as effective as Optavia for weight loss; just highlighting low-cost options that consumers seeking weight loss options may want to consider, or even consider supplementing in addition to Optavia.
Optavia's 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 coaching someone else to achieve weight loss.
The phrase "Optavia ruined my life" gets 5,400 monthly searches at the time of updating this article, according to software tool SEMRush, and some of the results are published by coaching partners.