Diet Guides

Is the Cambridge Diet suitable after 50?

As we age, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet becomes increasingly important for overall well-being and vitality. With numerous diet plans and weight loss programs flooding the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right approach. Whether you're considering embarking on a weight loss journey or simply seeking to optimise your nutritional habits, join us as we examine the efficacy and safety of the Cambridge Diet for those navigating the dynamic realm of 50 and beyond.

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Last updated and fact checked:
Is the Cambridge Diet suitable after 50?
  • The Cambridge Diet can have detrimental side effects, especially in those over 50.
  • There is no official upper age limit for the Cambridge Diet.
  • It is recommended to always consult a medical professional prior to beginning any diet plan.
  • Alternative nutritionally-balanced diets and physical activity is recommended for weight loss.

Is the Cambridge Diet suitable after 50: FAQs

  • What is the difference between the Cambridge Diet and the Cambridge Diet 1:1?

    The Cambridge Diet is the former name of the Cambridge Diet 1:1 or One2onediet, officially called the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan. The company re-branded in 2019 for their name to better represent what they do best - provide one-to-one support. When new dieters embark on their weight loss journey with the Cambridge Diet, they are assigned a personal diet consultant who works on a meal plan and offers ongoing support.

  • How much weight can you lose in a month on the Cambridge Diet?

    Weight loss is very subjective, and for those over 50, budging stubborn body fat can prove more difficult. As you age, your metabolism slows down, so effective weight loss may take longer than it previously would have. However, according to the Cambridge Diet, dieters can expect to lose up to a stone (14 lbs or 6.35 kg) during the first month of the plan.

  • What do you eat on a Cambridge diet?

    The Cambridge Diet provides its own nutritionally-balanced Cambridge Diet products, such as shakes, soups, smoothies, ready-meals and snack bars for dieters. Depending on which step the dieter is on, the Cambridge Diet meal replacement products replace all of the meals which would usually be consumed by the individual or replace only some all the dieter’s regular food with their own products.

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The Cambridge Diet, also known as the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Loss Plan, is a weight loss programme which promises to be the “one diet that’ll work for you. Yet, potential side effects raise the question of whether this is truly suitable for everyone, especially for those over 50.

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What is the Cambridge Diet?

Originally devised in the 1960s by biochemist Dr Alan Howard at Cambridge University, the Cambridge Diet was created as a weight loss solution for obese patients in hospitals. It was not until 1984 that the weight loss programme was made available to the general public. Since then, the Cambridge Diet has become a popular weight loss programme across the UK, albeit not without its controversies.

Why do people do the Cambridge Diet?

Since being obese can be detrimental to our overall health, losing weight can be a great decision, should it be necessary. Additional body weight comes with a higher risk of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and some types of cancer. Especially for those who are elderly, being obese causes issues such as strain on the joints, making individuals even more prone to having falls.

Despite some negative coverage of the Cambridge Diet, diet programmes like this are still appealing to many because of such drastic results that help achieve weight-loss goals.

We spoke about dieting with Anna Chabura, Personal Trainer & Nutritionist, who told Health Times: "Like any dietary approach such as Cambridge, keto, or vegan, individual experiences will vary. It's crucial to remember that these are structured diets with specific guidelines. Adherence and smart implementation are key to reaping their benefits. However, my professional recommendation to clients struggling with weight loss, regardless of age, is to begin by developing food awareness and educating themselves on nutrition.

"'Diets' alone won't suffice without grasping fundamental nutritional principles. This is why many individuals experience yo-yo effects or suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Start by listening to podcasts, reading informative articles and books on nutrition, and consider working with a specialist who can intelligently tailor your dietary plan to your lifestyle and unique needs."

How does the Cambridge Diet work?

The Cambridge Diet has been designed to put dieters in a calorie deficit. A calorie is a unit of energy, so a calorie deficit means you’re burning more calories than you consume. Being in a calorie deficit, therefore, means you’ll lose weight.

Counting calories as a method of weight loss alone can initially be time-consuming and confusing for some. The Cambridge Diet, however, can provide dieters with products with already carefully counted calories and reassures those on the programme that the diet contains the right amount of protein and carbohydrates to support manageable weight loss.

The diet is set up in five stages. The first of the stages is where dieters consume the least amount of calories via a meal replacement diet. As you move through the various stages of the programme, the number of calories gradually increases until dieters reach the final step of their weight loss programme. The specific amount of calories individuals are provided with depends on factors such as starting weight.

Following stage 5, dieters eat at a maintenance, which allows them to keep the weight they have lost, off. Consultants who work for the Cambridge Diet mentor those on the plan and meet up frequently to keep dieters on track and offer support.

Lucy Harper, a Trauma Informed Nutritional Therapist and Wellbeing Coach, sounded another note of caution about diets, telling Health Times: "Unless you resolve the underlying reasons for the weight gain, you will simply put the weight back on. The body learns to adjust to prevent starvation so this is a very expensive and unnatural way of eating which rarely works in the long-term and can cause serious health issues."

How many calories should you have per day?

The calories on the Cambridge Diet plan are very low, to begin with. Typically, the average male needs approximately 2500 calories a day, and females should have a calorie intake of around 2000. However, factors such as activity level, height, weight, and age can increase or decrease this number. When you next do your food shop, see if you can spot the number of calories displayed as ‘kcals’ on the packaged products you pick up.

Older adults often require fewer calories as they generally move less, meaning fewer calories are burned. Again, this is circumstantial and depends specifically on how active you still are. You can find out more about calories in our previous article Losing weight over 50 while eating what you want.

Who can do the Cambridge Diet?

Since the Cambridge Diet was originally developed to help those with obesity to lose weight, it’s recommended that those opting to start this diet first work out their BMI to see if this plan is suitable. The Cambridge Diet website has an online BMI calculator allowing users to input their height and weight, which will suggest whether someone is underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or very obese.

You’ll see various success stories on the Cambridge Diet’s website from those of a range of ages. However, the Cambridge Diet does highlight that the diet is unsuitable for children under 14. Although there is no upper age limit to take part, you should consult your GP beforehand.

Side effects of the Cambridge Diet for over 50s

As with any rapid weight loss comes some degree of side effects. For some, these can be more damaging than for others, but nutritionists do not recommend extreme weight loss diets for your physical or mental health.

Ageing also increases the likelihood of health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, which will also impact dietary needs. It’s important that before undergoing the Cambridge Diet, individuals ensure that it is suitable for them to avoid any of the following potential side effects.

Hair thinning

Losing hair as you age is not abnormal, but very low-calorie diets such as the Cambridge Diet can also be a contributing factor. In the early stage of the Cambridge Diet, calories can be as low as 450 for the day. This stage of the diet is considered the most extreme of the programme, often meaning this is when dieters drop the most drastic amount of weight.


Being over the age of 40 already puts you more at risk of developing gallstones. The Cambridge Diet is considered a severe form of dieting, which is when three or more pounds are lost per week, increasing the risk of gallstones.


A keto diet is one of the latest diet-related buzzwords, but what about ketosis? And how does it relate to the Cambridge Diet? A low-carb keto diet results in the state of ketosis. When the body reaches ketosis, instead of converting carbohydrates into glucose to produce energy for organs, cells and bodily tissue, the liver produces ketones (a chemical that your liver produces when it breaks down fats) from fat and burns them for energy instead.

Ketosis can occur as a result of the Cambridge Diet because of how few calories dieters consume, particularly in the early stages. And whilst this may come with weight loss, a state of ketosis can also mean muscle soreness, dizziness, constipation and bad breath.


Depriving yourself of any food group or being in a calorie deficit inevitably means experiencing cravings for the food you previously ate. The Cambridge Diet recognises this, stating that the first couple of days on the plan will be the most difficult.

Alternatives to the Cambridge Diet for over 50s

High-protein diet

A diet high in protein, especially as you age, ensures keeping fuller for longer and promotes healthy muscles. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the supermarket's influx of foods labelled as ‘high-protein’. To help you out, some high-protein food sources include dairy products, eggs, chicken, pork, legumes and tofu to name a few. But what’s important is to remember that if your goal is to achieve weight loss, you also need to be aware of the calories you consume.

The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet involves eating a diet which is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains, oily fish, some poultry, eggs and dairy, and wine in moderation. Whilst it still stands that a calorie deficit is essential to lose weight whilst eating this way, this diet focuses on colourful and nutritionally dense foods, which means dieters don’t have to restrict, as well as having other health benefits and even being linked to decreasing mortality.

Calorie counting

Ultimately, to lose weight, being in a calorie deficit is key. This being said, it’s also essential not to dismiss the fact that a balanced diet is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, calorie counting and a nutritious, balanced diet can work hand in hand. You can read more about balancing calories, weight loss and nutrition in our previous article: Why aren’t I losing weight eating a healthy diet?

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The content on is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice or guidance. Should you need professional medical advice or guidance, you should consult with such a professional in their relevant field. Likewise, you should always seek professional medical advice before starting a diet, exercise regime or course of medication, or introducing or eliminating specific elements from your lifestyle. We strive to write accurate, genuine and helpful content, and all views and opinions expressed within this article are specifically the views of the author.
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