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J Nutr. 2000 Feb;130(2S Suppl):276S-279S.

Dietary determinants of energy intake and weight regulation in healthy adults.

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Energy Metabolism Laboratory, Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Until recently, the percentage of energy from dietary fat has been considered a primary determinant of body fatness. This review covers recent studies from our laboratory that challenge this notion. High and low fat diets matched for energy density, palatability and fiber resulted in similar mean voluntary energy intakes over 9 d; analysis of the individual foods in these diets showed that energy density and palatability were significant determinants of energy intake, independent of fat content. Path analysis further revealed that the influence of energy density on energy intake was in part direct, and in part indirect and mediated by palatability. In another study, dietary variety within food groups was shown to be an important predictor of body fatness, and the direction of the association depended on which food groups provided the variety, i.e., the variety of sweets, snacks, condiments, entrees and carbohydrates consumed was positively associated with body fatness, whereas the variety of vegetables was negatively associated. Last, a study of restaurant food and body fatness showed that the frequency of consumption of restaurant food was positively associated with body fatness, independent of education level, smoking status, alcohol intake and physical activity. Restaurant meals tend to be high in fat and low in fiber, and thus energy dense. Restaurants also typically serve a variety of palatable foods in large portions. The increasing variety of high energy foods available and the increasing proportion of household income spent on foods consumed away from home may help explain the U.S. national rising prevalence of obesity.

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