Changes in food cravings during low-calorie and very-low-calorie diets

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Jan;14(1):115-21. doi: 10.1038/oby.2006.14.


Objective: This study examined food cravings during a primarily food-based low-calorie diet (LCD) and a supplement-based very-LCD (VLCD).

Research methods and procedures: The Food Craving Inventory (FCI) was used to measure general cravings and cravings for specific types of foods (sweets, high fats, carbohydrates/starches, and fast food fats). The FCI was completed by participants in the LCD and VLCD programs at baseline and after 11 weeks of dieting. The VLCD group also completed the FCI at Week 6 and after 5 weeks of a refeeding phase, when their diet consisted primarily of solid food.

Results: From baseline to Week 12, craving decreases were greater for the VLCD group than for the LCD group on all measures. All craving measures decreased significantly for the VLCD group. The LCD group experienced a marginally significant decrease in sweet cravings. Within the VLCD group, all craving measures decreased significantly by Week 6 and did not change thereafter, including after resumption of solid food intake, and craving scores during all dieting points were lower than baseline. Changes in cravings were not related to weight loss.

Discussion: Cravings did not increase during either diet; all changes represented decreases. Compared with a primarily food-based diet (LCD), a more restrictive supplement-based diet (VLCD) resulted in significantly larger decreases in food cravings that occurred by the end of the 5th week of supplement use and did not rebound with resumption of solid food intake. The results of this study suggest that food cravings diminish with calorie restriction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss / physiology