Diets rich in fat may promote obesity by leading to a greater deposition of adipose-tissue triglycerides than do isoenergetic diets with less fat. This possibility was examined by a retrospective analysis of the energy needs of 16 human subjects (13 adults, 3 children) fed liquid diets of precisely known composition with widely varied fat content, for 15-56 d (33 +/- 2 d, mean +/- SE). Subjects lived in a metabolic ward and received fluid formulas with different fat and carbohydrate content, physical activity was kept constant, and precise data were available on energy intake and daily body weight. Isoenergetic formulas contained various percentages of carbohydrate as cerelose (low, 15%; intermediate, 40% or 45%; high, 75%, 80%, or 85%), a constant 15% of energy as protein (as milk protein), and the balance of energy as fat (as corn oil). Even with extreme changes in the fat-carbohydrate ratio (fat energy varied from 0% to 70% of total intake), there was no detectable evidence of significant variation in energy need as a function of percentage fat intake.