Long-term maintenance of a low-fat diet: durability of fat-related dietary habits in the Women's Health Trial

J Am Diet Assoc. 1992 May;92(5):553-9.


The Women's Health Trial (WHT) was a feasibility study for a randomized trial of a low-fat diet for the prevention of breast cancer. One year after the WHT was terminated, a random sample of 894 participants who had been active in the WHT for an average of 16 months (range = 5 to 37) completed questionnaires about their dietary habits (a 21-item instrument that measures five dimensions of low-fat dietary habits) and food intake (a food frequency questionnaire). Women who participated in the intervention program maintained most of the low-fat dietary habits adopted during the study: mean total fat intake increased from 37.8 g to 41.0 g and scales describing substitution of specially manufactured low-fat foods and modification of meats to be lower in fat increased only slightly (by 0.11 and 0.14, respectively, on a scale of 1 = always to 4 = never). Scales describing avoiding meat and avoiding fats as a flavoring increased by 0.23 and 0.22, respectively, which suggests some recidivism. Women in the control group lowered their dietary fat intake from 65.0 to 57.5 g, but all differences in fat intake and fat-related dietary habits scales between women in the control and intervention groups remained highly statistically significant. In multiple regression models, all five low-fat dietary habits scales were independently associated with percentage of energy from fat, but the strongest association was for avoiding fats as flavorings. These results suggest that substitutions of specially manufactured low-fat foods are easily adopted and maintained dietary changes, but that maintenance of new habits related to avoiding fats as flavorings and avoiding meat will require long-term reinforcement strategies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dietary Fats