Objective: To assess the association of dietary fat and weight gain among adult women and to investigate whether offspring of overweight parents have a greater predisposition to weight gain due to intake of dietary fat.
Research methods and procedures: This was an 8-year follow-up of 41,518 women in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS), a population-based, prospective cohort. The women were 41 to 68 years of age, free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes in 1986 when "baseline" weight and diet were assessed. Eight years later (1994), changes in weight and dietary intake were assessed. Linear regression models were used to relate change in weight to fat intake and change in fat intake, using the percentage of energy from carbohydrate as the comparison, adjusted for age, BMI in 1986, leisure time physical activity, time spent sitting, percent of calories from protein, and change in percentage of calories from protein.
Results: Overall, there was a weak positive association between total fat intake (beta=0.11) and weight gain. Increases in monosaturated and polyunsaturated fat were not associated with weight gain, but increases in animal fat, saturated fat, and trans fat had a positive association with weight change. There was not strong evidence of effect modification by parental weight status (p=0.7 to 0.8 for percentage of calories from total fat, animal fat, and vegetable fat); however, the associations were stronger among the overweight compared with leaner women (p<0.05 for percentage of calories from each type of fat). Among overweight women, for every one percentage increase in percentage of calories from trans fat, women gained an additional 2.3 lb (95% confidence interval, 1.80 to 2.86).
Conclusion: Our results show that, overall, percent of calories from fat has only a weak positive association with weight gain; however, percentage of calories from animal, saturated, and trans fat has stronger associations. There was no clear evidence that the diet-weight gain association was stronger among offspring of overweight parents, but dietary fat was associated with greater weight gain among overweight women.