Background: Laboratory-based investigations indicate that the consumption of foods with a low energy density (kcal/g) decreases energy intake. Although low-energy-dense diets are recommended for weight management, relations between energy density, energy intake, and weight status have not been clearly shown in free-living persons.
Objectives: A representative US sample was used to determine whether dietary energy density is associated with energy intake, the weight of food consumed, and body weight and to explore the influence of food choices (fruit, vegetable, and fat consumption) on energy density and body weight.
Design: A cross-sectional survey of adults (n = 7356) from the 1994-1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals and two 24-h dietary recalls were used.
Results: Men and women with a low-energy-dense diet had lower energy intakes (approximately 425 and 275 kcal/d less, respectively) than did those with a high-energy-dense diet, even though they consumed more food (approximately 400 and 300 g/d more, respectively). Normal-weight persons had diets with a lower energy density than did obese persons. Persons with a high fruit and vegetable intake had the lowest energy density values and the lowest obesity prevalence.
Conclusions: Adults consuming a low-energy-dense diet are likely to consume more food (by weight) but to have a lower energy intake than do those consuming a higher-energy-dense diet. The energy density of a variety of dietary patterns, including higher-fat diets, can be lowered by adding fruit and vegetables. Our findings support the hypothesis that a relation exists between the consumption of an energy-dense diet and obesity and provide evidence of the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption for weight management.