The Last Chance Diet

Fad diets abound. Some are just ineffective while others are downright dangerous. The Last Chance Diet, a fad diet clearly in the "dangerous" category, was a dieting disaster that cost some their lives 1. Extreme weight loss methods like this attract those who may feel desperate to lose weight, but if you've got weight to lose, choose an effective plan with a track record of safety.

The Premise

Dr. Roger Linn unveiled his diet creation, the Last Chance Diet, with the publication of his book by the same name in 1976 1. This quick-fix diet was a forerunner of the very low calorie liquid protein diets. On what was basically a starvation diet, Last Chance dieters consumed nothing except Linn's low-cal liquid concoction, which tallied up at fewer than 400 calories per serving 1. The plan did not include exercise.

The Problems

Prolinn, the ill-conceived concoction Last Chance Dieters subsisted on, was based on collagen, a low-quality protein.The collagen in the citrus-flavored drink was derived from the hooves and hides of slaughterhouse animals. Sadly, approximately 60 sudden deaths occurred among Last Chance dieters. After a rapid loss of 10 to 30 percent of their body weight, some dieters collapsed and died suddenly. These sudden deaths are attributed to abnormal heart rhythms that may have resulted from shrinkage of heart muscle and electrolyte imbalances. In addition to poor-quality protein, Prolinn was low in vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.

Expert Opinion

The Very Low Calorie Diet, or VCLDs, originated in the 1920s but lost favor after the Last Chance Diet debacle 1. These 400- to 800-calorie liquid diets are popular once again because "...These issues are well known now and are not a problem when the diet is monitored by a physician experienced in VLCD diet protocols," according to the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. The society concedes that liquid VLCDs are "strenuous," and are reserved for those who are significantly overweight and without serious illnesses, such as a recent heart attack or stroke, or type 1 diabetes.


If you're considering a VLCD for weight loss, choose one with a meal replacement that provides all of the vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and carbohydrates that you need to stay healthy. Before starting a VLCD, make sure you have a complete health workup with a bariatrician, a physician who specializes in weight loss, who will monitor you throughout the diet. Take care when choosing a physician to monitor your diet. It takes special training and experience to safely monitor a VLCD and many of the best doctors don't have that experience, according to the ASBP's position paper on the use of VCLDs.