Energy density and weight change in a long-term weight-loss trial

Andrew Flood, Nathan Mitchell, Melanie Jaeb, Emily A. Finch, Patricia S. Laqua, Ericka M. Welsh, Annie Hotop, Shelby L. Langer, Rona L. Levy, Robert W. Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Health risks linked to obesity and the difficulty most have in achieving weight loss underscore the importance of identifying dietary factors that contribute to successful weight loss. Methods: This study examined the association between change in dietary energy density and weight loss over time. Subjects were 213 men and women with BMI of 30-39 kg/m2 and without chronic illness enrolled in 2004 in a randomized trial evaluating behavioral treatments for long-term weight loss. Subjects completed a 62-item food frequency questionnaire at baseline and at 6, 12, and 18 months. Results: Pearson correlations between BMI and energy density (kcals/g of solid food) at baseline were not significantly different from zero (r = -0.02, p = 0.84). In a longitudinal analysis, change in energy density was strongly related to change in BMI. The estimated β for change in BMI (kg/m2) of those in the quartile representing greatest decrease in energy density at 18 months compared to those in the quartile with the least was -1.95 (p = 0.006). The association was especially strong in the first six months (estimated β = -1.43), the period with greatest weight loss (mean change in BMI = -2.50 kg/m2 from 0-6 months vs. 0.23 kg/m2 from 12-18 months) and the greatest contrast with respect to change in energy density. Conclusion: Decreased energy density predicted weight loss in this 18 month weight loss study. These findings may have important implications for individual dietary advice and public health policies targeting weight control in the general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1479
Pages (from-to)57
Number of pages1
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
StatePublished - Aug 14 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research described in this paper was supported by NIH K07 CA108910-01A1 and NIH R01 DK064596. The funding institutions had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; and in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


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