Diet type and changes in food cravings following weight loss: Findings from the POUNDS LOST Trial

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Abstract

Few well-controlled trials have evaluated the effects that macronutrient composition has on changes in food cravings during weight loss treatment. The present study, which was part of the Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies (POUNDS LOST) trial, investigated whether the fat and protein content of four different diets affected changes in specific food cravings in overweight and obese adults. A sample of 811 adults were recruited across two clinical sites, and each participant was randomly assigned to one of four macronutrient prescriptions: 1) low fat (20% of energy), average protein (15% of energy); 2) moderate fat (40%), average protein (15%); 3) low fat (20%), high protein (25%); 4) moderate fat (40%), high protein (25%). With few exceptions, the type of diet that participants were assigned did not differentially affect changes in specific food cravings. Participants assigned to the high-fat diets, however, had reduced cravings for carbohydrates at month 12 (p<0.05) and fruits and vegetables at month 24. Also, participants assigned to high-protein diets had increased cravings for sweets at month 6 and month 12 (ps<0.05). Participants in all four dietary conditions reported significant reductions in food cravings for specific types of foods (i.e., high fat foods, fast food fats, sweets, and carbohydrates/starches; all ps<0.05). Cravings for fruits and vegetables, however, were increased at month 24 (p<0.05). Calorically restricted diets (regardless of their macronutrient composition) yielded significant reductions in cravings for fats, sweets, and starches whereas cravings for fruits and vegetables were increased.