The relationship between dietary energy density and energy intake

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Much of the research in ingestive behavior has focused on the macronutrient composition of foods; however, these studies are incomplete, or could be misleading, if they do not consider the energy density (ED) of the diet under investigation. Lowering the ED (kcal/g) by increasing the volume of preloads without changing macronutrient content can enhance satiety and reduce subsequent energy intake at a meal. Ad libitum intake or satiation has also been shown to be influenced by ED when the proportions of macronutrients are constant. Since people tend to eat a consistent weight of food, when the ED of the available foods is reduced, energy intake is reduced. The effects of ED have been seen in adults of different weight status, sex, and behavioral characteristics, as well as in 3- to 5-year-old children. The mechanisms underlying the response to variations in ED are not yet well understood and data from controlled studies lasting more than several days are limited. However, both population-based studies and long-term clinical trials indicate that the effects of dietary ED can be persistent. Several clinical trials have shown that reducing the ED of the diet by the addition of water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables was associated with substantial weight loss even when patients were not told to restrict calories. Since lowering dietary energy density could provide effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity, there is a need for more studies of mechanisms underlying the effect and ways to apply these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-615
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 14 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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