The role of dietary energy density (ED) in the regulation of energy intake (EI) is controversial. Methodologically, there is also debate about whether beverages should be included in dietary ED calculations. To address these issues, studies examining the effects of ED on EI or body weight in nonelderly adults were reviewed. Different approaches to calculating dietary ED do not appear to alter the direction of reported relations between ED and body weight. Evidence that lowering dietary ED reduces EI in short-term studies is convincing, but there are currently insufficient data to determine long-term effectiveness for weight loss. The review also identified key barriers to progress in understanding the role of ED in energy regulation, in particular the absence of a standard definition of ED, and the lack of data from multiple long-term clinical trials examining the effectiveness of low-ED diet recommendations for preventing both primary weight gain and weight regain in nonobese individuals. Long-term clinical trials designed to examine the impact of dietary ED on energy regulation, and including multiple ED calculation methods within the same study, are still needed to determine the importance of ED in the regulation of EI and body weight.
© 2014 American Society for Nutrition.