Can limiting dietary variety assist with reducing energy intake and weight loss?

Physiol Behav. 2012 Jun 6;106(3):356-61. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.03.012. Epub 2012 Mar 16.


Due to the high prevalence of overweight and obesity, developing strategies to improve weight loss and weight loss maintenance is imperative. One dietary environmental variable that has received little attention in being targeted in an intervention to assist with obesity treatment is dietary variety. Experimental research has consistently shown that greater dietary variety increases consumption, with the effect of variety on consumption hypothesized to be a consequence of the differential experience of the more varied sensory properties of food under those conditions with greater dietary variety. As reduced energy intake is required for weight loss, limiting variety, particularly in food groups that are high in energy-density and low in nutrient-density, may assist with reducing energy intake and improving weight loss. A series of investigations, both observational and experimental, were conducted to examine if limiting variety in an energy-dense, non-nutrient-dense food group, snack foods (i.e., cookies, chips), assisted with reducing energy intake of the food group and improving weight loss. Results of the investigations suggest that a prescription for limiting variety in a food group can be implemented during obesity treatment, limiting variety is associated with the occurrence of monotony, and that reducing food group variety is related to decreased consumption of that food group. Future research is needed to ascertain the long-term effect of prescriptions targeting dietary variety on weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet / methods*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Weight Loss / physiology*