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Lipids. 2003 Feb;38(2):109-15.

The role of energy density.

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  • 1Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Dietary energy density (ED) appears to have a major influence on the regulation of food intake and body weight. If people consume a fixed weight of food each day, then high-ED diets should be associated with high energy intakes and with overweight. In contrast, low-ED diets should result in lower daily energy intakes and therefore weight loss. For this approach to work, low-ED foods must be as palatable as high-ED foods and, calorie for calorie, have a greater satiating power. Each of those assumptions is debatable. Dietary ED depends chiefly on the water content of foods. As a rule, high-ED foods are more palatable but less satiating, whereas low-ED foods are more satiating but less palatable. Consumer preferences for high-ED foods can be explained in terms of good taste, low cost, and convenience. Low-ED foods, such as fresh produce, provide less energy per unit cost than do high-ED foods, which often contain added sugars and fats. Poverty and obesity may well be linked through the habitual consumption of a low-cost, high-ED diet.

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