Effects of diet composition on postprandial energy availability during weight loss maintenance

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58172. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058172. Epub 2013 Mar 6.


Background: The major circulating metabolic fuels regulate hunger, and each is affected by dietary composition. An integrated measure of postprandial energy availability from circulating metabolic fuels may help inform dietary recommendations for weight maintenance after weight loss.

Aim: We examined the effect of low-fat (LF, 60% of energy from carbohydrate, 20% fat, 20% protein), low-glycemic index (LGI, 40%-40%-20%), and very low-carbohydrate (VLC, 10%-60%-30%) diets on total postprandial metabolic fuel energy availability (EA) during weight loss maintenance.

Methods: Eight obese young adults were fed a standard hypocaloric diet to produce 10-15% weight loss. They were then provided isocaloric LF, LGI, and VLC diets in a randomized crossover design, each for a 4-week period of weight loss maintenance. At the end of each dietary period, a test meal representing the respective diet was provided, and blood samples were obtained every 30 minutes for 5 hours. The primary outcome was EA, defined as the combined energy density (circulating level × relative energy content) of glucose, free fatty acids, and β-hydroxybutyrate. Secondary outcomes were individual metabolic fuels, metabolic rate, insulin, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine, and hunger ratings. Respiratory quotient was a process measure. Data were analyzed by repeated-measures analysis of variance, with outcomes compared in the early (30 to 150 min) and late (180 to 300 min) postprandial periods.

Results: EA did not differ between the test meals during the early postprandial period (p = 0.99). However, EA in the late postprandial period was significantly lower after the LF test meal than the LGI (p<0.0001) and VLC (p<0.0001) test meals. Metabolic rate also differed in the late postprandial period (p = 0.0074), with higher values on the VLC than LF (p = 0.0064) and LGI (p = 0.0066) diets.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that an LF diet may adversely affect postprandial EA and risk for weight regain during weight loss maintenance.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00315354.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Glycemic Index
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Postprandial Period / physiology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Weight Reduction Programs / methods*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Epinephrine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00315354