The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly worldwide and the importance of considering the role of diet in the prevention and treatment of obesity is widely acknowledged. This paper reviews data on the effects of dietary carbohydrates on body fatness. Does the composition of the diet as related to carbohydrates affect the likelihood of passive over-consumption and long-term weight change? In addition, methodological limitations of both observational and experimental studies of dietary composition and body weight are discussed. Carbohydrates are among the macronutrients that provide energy and can thus contribute to excess energy intake and subsequent weight gain. There is no clear evidence that altering the proportion of total carbohydrate in the diet is an important determinant of energy intake. However, there is evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages do not induce satiety to the same extent as solid forms of carbohydrate, and that increases in sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption are associated with weight gain. Findings from studies on the effect of the dietary glycemic index on body weight have not been consistent. Dietary fiber is associated with a lesser degree of weight gain in observational studies. Although it is difficult to establish with certainty that fiber rather than other dietary attributes are responsible, whole-grain cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruits seem to be the most appropriate sources of dietary carbohydrate.