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A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults


CONTEXT: Long-term success in weight loss with dietary treatment has been elusive.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate a diet moderate in fat based on the Mediterranean diet compared to a standard low-fat diet for weight loss when both were controlled for energy.

DESIGN: A randomized, prospective 18 month trial in a free-living population.

PATIENTS: A total of 101 overweight men and women (26.5–46 kg/m2).

INTERVENTION: (1) Moderate-fat diet (35% of energy); (2) low-fat diet (20% of energy).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: Change in body weight.

RESULTS: After 18 months, 31/50 subjects in the moderate-fat group, and 30/51 in the low fat group were available for measurements. In the moderate-fat group, there were mean decreases in body weight of 4.1 kg, body mass index of 1.6 kg/m2, and waist circumference of 6.9 cm, compared to increases in the low-fat group of 2.9 kg, 1.4 kg/m2 and 2.6 cm, respectively; P≤0.001 between the groups. The difference in weight change between the groups was 7.0 kg. (95% CI 5.3, 8.7). Only 20% (10/51) of those in the low-fat group were actively participating in the weight loss program after 18 months compared to 54% (27/50) in the moderate-fat group, (P<0.002). The moderate-fat diet group was continued for an additional year. The mean weight loss after 30 months compared to baseline was 3.5 kg (n=19, P=0.03).

CONCLUSIONS: A moderate-fat, Mediterranean-style diet, controlled in energy, offers an alternative to a low-fat diet with superior long-term participation and adherence, with consequent improvements in weight loss.

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Funding for this study was equally supported by the Peanut Institute, the International Olive Oil Council, and the International Tree Nut Council.

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Correspondence to K McManus.

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McManus, K., Antinoro, L. & Sacks, F. A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. Int J Obes 25, 1503–1511 (2001).

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  • diets
  • weight reduction
  • unsaturated fat
  • low fat

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