The role of dietary fat in obesity

Semin Vasc Med. 2005 Feb;5(1):40-7. doi: 10.1055/s-2005-871740.


Current scientific evidence indicates that dietary fat plays a role in weight loss and maintenance. Meta-analyses of intervention trials find that fat-reduced diets cause a 3-4-kg larger weight loss than normal-fat diets. A 10% reduction in dietary fat can cause a 4-5-kg weight loss in individuals with initial body mass index of 30 kg m (-2). Short-term trials show that nonfat dietary components are equally important. Sugar-sweetened beverages promote weight gain, and replacement of energy from fat by sugar-sweetened beverages is counterproductive in diets aimed at weight loss. Protein has been shown to be more satiating than carbohydrate, and fat-reduced diets with a high protein content (20-25% of energy) may increase weight loss significantly. There is little evidence that low-glycemic index foods facilitate weight control. Evidence linking certain fatty acids to body fatness is weak. Monounsaturated fatty acids may even be more fattening than polyunsaturated and saturated fats. No ad libitum dietary intervention study has shown that a normal-fat, high-monounsaturated fatty acid diet is comparable to a low-fat diet in preventing weight gain. Current evidence indicates that the best diet for prevention of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is low in fat and sugar-rich beverages and high in carbohydrates, fiber, grains, and protein.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity, Morbid / diet therapy
  • Obesity, Morbid / prevention & control
  • Prognosis
  • Weight Loss


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats