Effect of low-fat and/or low-energy diets on anthropometric measures in participants of the women's diet study

Zora Djuric, Samir Lababidi, Lance K Heilbrun, Janice B Depper, Kathleen M Poore, Virginia E Uhley
Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2002, 21 (1): 38-46

OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of low-fat, low-energy and combination low-fat/low-energy intervention on changes in six anthropometric measures in Caucasian and African-American free-living women.

METHODS: The effects of dietary counseling strategies for fat and/or energy reduction were examined on anthropometric measures in 86 pre-menopausal women, average BMI of 28 kg/m2, who participated in a 12-week intervention trial called the Women's Diet Study. The dietary goals were 15% of energy from fat and/or 25% reduction in energy intake, relative to reported baseline intake, using a 2 x 2 factorial design. Analysis of covariance models were constructed to evaluate changes in anthropometric measures over the 12 weeks of study.

RESULTS: The biggest difference by race was in women who were relatively heavier at baseline, in which case African-American women lost significantly less weight but decreased their waist:hip ratio to a significantly greater extent than Caucasian women. With regard to the effects of diet arm, weight loss varied depending on baseline weight, and in women with higher baseline weights, the combination low-fat/low-energy diet resulted in the most weight loss (6.7 kg, p < 0.05). Decreases in the other anthropometric measures at week 12 were more uniform across diet arms and did not depend on baseline values. After controlling for previous weight history and race, the decreases in BMI, percent body fat and waist circumference after 12 weeks were statistically equivalent with the low-fat, low-energy or combination low-fat/low-energy diets. The relatively greater decreases in percent body fat and waist circumference with the combination diet versus the low-fat or low-energy diets were not statistically significant.

CONCLUSION: The low-fat, low-energy and combination diets all resulted in similar and statistically significant decreases in BMI, percent body fat and waist circumference over 12 weeks of intervention. The extent of weight loss, however, varied depending on baseline weight, and the combination diet was the only intervention to result in significant weight loss for women who were heavier at baseline. This indicates that, although there may be an advantage for reducing dietary fat in initially heavier women, any of these counseling strategies could be effective for improving anthropometric predictors of health risks associated with overweight status. This is useful since flexibility in dietary choices may facilitate adherence to dietary counseling in some individuals.

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