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Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):863-71.

Energy density but not fat content of foods affected energy intake in lean and obese women.

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  • 1Nutrition Department, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802-6501, USA. bjr4@psu.edu



Studies have shown that energy intake increases when both the fat content and energy density of the entire diet increases. When the fat content and energy density vary independently of one another, however, energy density, but not fat content, influences intake.


The present study examined whether energy intake in lean and obese women is affected when either the energy density or the fat content of a portion of the diet is manipulated and palatability is held constant.


In a within-subjects design, 17 lean and 17 obese women consumed meals in the laboratory for four, 4-d test periods. In 3 of these test periods the energy density (4.4 and 6.7 kJ/g) or the fat content (16% and 36% of energy) of compulsory entrees representing 50% of each subject's usual energy intake was manipulated. Additional self-selected foods were consumed ad libitum at meals and as snacks.


There were no systematic differences in palatability of the manipulated foods across conditions. Obese and lean participants responded similarly to the dietary manipulations. Intake of self-selected foods at meals was reduced significantly by 16% for both lean and obese subjects in the low- compared with the high-energy-density condition. The fat content of the compulsory foods had no significant effect on energy intake. Ratings of hunger did not differ between diets.


These results indicate that when a portion of the diet was manipulated, the energy density, but not the fat content, of the foods affected total energy intake at meals in both lean and obese women.

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