PHARMACIES that actively promote quick-fix diet products are encouraging a "cycle of failure" in people trying to lose weight.
The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) has issued a warning about "shortcuts" on the road to weight loss claiming they do not work for the vast majority of people.
Chairman of the foundation, Dr Donal O'Shea, said the products, such as over-the-counter meal-replacement products, did not work for 95pc of consumers and could prove injurious to health.
The specialist was referring to products on sale in pharmacies without prescription, which act as meal substitutes and come in powder or liquid form.
He said pharmacies that promoted meal-replacement products were actively "encouraging a cycle of failure in people attempting to manage their weight".
The cycle of failure would not help to reduce obesity in Ireland's population, he said, adding: "If we have learnt anything over the last decade in weight management it is that, for most people, slow weight loss is the only way to lose weight and successfully keep it off."
He said obesity was a major health issue for Ireland.
"In my clinical practice, I have seen people with real health problems resulting from very low-calorie approaches, such as meal-replacement products. I cannot say it enough: quick-fix approaches do not work," he said.
The IHF recommends that people who are overweight or obese should be supported in their efforts to lose weight through healthy eating plans combined with exercise.
A slower approach to weight loss reduces disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as promoting energy and feelings of well-being, it says.
Both the IHF and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) recommend reducing calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories a day in order to achieve a steady weight loss of 1 to 2lbs each week.
However, people were strongly advised not to engage in very low calorie dieting, which involves consuming less than 800 calories per day.
Such diets can produce many side-effects such as weakness, dizziness, constipation, hair loss, nausea and irritability, according to the IHF -- and, furthermore, do not produce long- term results.