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Obes Res. 1998 May;6(3):202-7.

The efficacy of dietary fat vs. total energy restriction for weight loss.

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University of Vermont, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Burlington 05405-0148, USA.



Dietary fat restriction is currently being promoted as a weight loss strategy. However, previous investigations suggest that fat restriction alone may not be more beneficial than total energy restriction for the treatment of obesity. The purpose of this project was to assess whether an energy-restricted or fat-restricted diet was more effective at promoting weight loss, improving eating behaviors, and reducing barriers to dietary adherence.


Eighty individuals (15 men and 65 women) were randomized into the two treatment conditions. Subjects were 120% to 140% of ideal body weight and 25 years to 45 years old. Treatment consisted of 24 weeks of dietary fat (22 g/day to 26 g/day) or energy restriction (4,186 kJ/day to 5,023 kJ/day), including behavior modification and exercise. Body weight change, dietary intake, eating behaviors, and barriers to adherence were measured at baseline and after treatment.


Results show that subjects in the energy-restricted condition lost over twice as much weight as those in the fat-restricted group (11.5 kg vs. 5.2 kg). Additionally, subjects in the low-energy condition had greater improvements in eating behavior scores, enhanced feelings of wellness, a greater distaste for dietary fat, and no more pronounced feelings of deprivation than did those in the fat-restricted condition.


An energy-restricted diet produces greater short-term weight loss than dietary fat restriction without many of the negative consequences commonly attributed to reducing energy intake.

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