Compared to low-fat diets, low-carbohydrate (CHO) diets cause weight loss (WL) over a faster time frame; however, it is unknown how changes in food cravings and eating behavior contribute to this more rapid WL in the early phases of dieting. We hypothesized that reductions in food cravings and improved eating behaviors would be evident even after a relatively short (4-week) duration of CHO-restriction, and that these changes would be associated with WL. Adult participants (n = 19, 53% males, mean ± SD: BMI = 34.1 ± 0.8 kg/m2; age 40.6 ± 1.9 years) consumed a CHO-restricted diet (14% CHO, 58% fat, 28% protein) for 4 weeks. Before and after the intervention, specific and total cravings were measured with the Food Craving Inventory (FCI) and eating behaviors assessed with the Three-Factor Eating questionnaire. Food cravings were significantly reduced at week 4, while women had significantly greater reductions in sweet cravings than men. Dietary restraint was significantly increased by 102%, while disinhibiton and hunger scores were reduced (17% and 22%, respectively, p < 0.05). Changes in cravings were unrelated to changes in body weight except for the change in high-fat cravings where those who lost the most weight experienced the least reductions in fat cravings (r = -0.458, p = 0.049). Changes in dietary restraint were inversely related to several FCI subscales. A short-term, low-CHO diet was effective in reducing food cravings. These data suggest that in subjects that have successfully lost weight on a low-CHO diet, those who craved high-fat foods at the onset were able to satisfy their cravings-potentially due to the high-fat nature of this restricted diet.
Keywords: carbohydrate restriction; eating behaviors; food cravings; weight loss.