The goal of this study was to evaluate the effect of diets that were equally low in energy but widely different in relative amounts of fat and carbohydrate on body weight during a 6-wk period of hospitalization. Consequently, 43 adult, obese persons were randomly assigned to receive diets containing 4.2 MJ/d (1000 kcal/d) composed of either 32% protein, 15% carbohydrate, and 53% fat, or 29% protein, 45% carbohydrate, and 26% fat. There was no significant difference in the amount of weight loss in response to diets containing either 15% (8.9 +/- 0.6 kg) or 45% (7.5 +/- 0.5 kg) carbohydrate. Furthermore, significant decreases in total body fat and waist-to-hip circumference were seen in both groups, and the magnitude of the changes did not vary as a function of diet composition. Fasting plasma glucose, insulin, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations decreased significantly in patients eating low-energy diets that contained 15% carbohydrate, but neither plasma insulin nor triacylglycerol concentrations fell significantly in response to the higher-carbohydrate diet. The results of this study showed that it was energy intake, not nutrient composition, that determined weight loss in response to low-energy diets over a short time period.