Reducing Calorie Intake May Not Help You Lose Body Weight

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2017 Sep;12(5):703-714. doi: 10.1177/1745691617690878. Epub 2017 Jun 28.


As the widespread availability of highly calorific food has resulted in a high incidence of obesity, attempts to decrease body weight have concentrated on trying to reduce energy intake. It is suggested that this is not the best approach. Although consuming more calories than expended is part of the initial problem, it does not follow that reducing intake, unless consciously counting calories, is the best solution. Mechanisms smooth out the large day-to-day differences in energy consumption, decreasing the importance of the size of a meal. In the short term a reduction in energy intake is counteracted by mechanisms that reduce metabolic rate and increase calorie intake, ensuring the regaining of lost weight. For example, even a year after dieting, hormonal mechanisms that stimulate appetite are raised. Over a million calories are consumed a year yet weight changes to only a small extent; there must be mechanisms that balance energy intake and expenditure. As obesity reflects only a small malfunctioning of these mechanisms, there is a need to understand the control of energy balance and how to prevent the regaining of weight after it has been lost. By itself, decreasing calorie intake will have a limited short-term influence.

Keywords: body mass index; body weight; calorie deduction; obesity; weight gain.

MeSH terms

  • Appetite
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Obesity*
  • Weight Gain