Several studies have investigated the effects of manipulating the fat content in certain meals on energy intake on a short-term basis (< 5 days). Caputo and Mattes (1992) manipulated the energy and fat content of a midday meal for 5 days by using traditional low-fat foods and some commercially available reduced-fat foods. They found that both males and females compensated for energy dilutions in their diet; however, compensation for a surfeit of energy was weaker, especially when the additional energy was derived from dietary fat. Firm conclusions cannot be drawn from this study because the data for fat intake were obtained via diet records, and such data should be interpreted cautiously due to the potential errors and biases in using self-reported measures. However, similar results were found in a well-controlled residential laboratory study (Foltin et al., 1988) that manipulated the carbohydrate and fat content in certain meals. In this study, subjects (lean males) compensated well and quickly for the caloric dilution, but when the energy level was again raised to baseline levels subjects did not compensate and overate. In a subsequent residential study (Foltin et al., 1990) that manipulated the fat and carbohydrate content of a lunch meal using four conditions (high-fat, high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-carbohydrate; with 3 days per condition), energy compensation was observed regardless of macronutrient composition (mean daily energy intakes: 2824, 2988, 2700, and 2890 kcal, respectively). However, energy intake from dietary fat was fairly constant in all conditions except the high-fat condition which was significantly greater than the other three conditions. The results of these studies indicate that when there is a decrease in the fat content (and thus the energy content) of the diet, the energy reduction may be compensated for in subsequent meals or snacks, but the fat reduction per se may not. Furthermore, there is some evidence that when additional fat is included in the diet, it is unlikely that a spontaneous reduction in energy and fat intake will occur to compensate for this surfeit (Caputo and Mattes, 1992; Foltin et al., 1988). These findings are, however, dependent on the magnitude of the manipulation and the characteristics of the subjects being tested (e.g., lean/obese, restrained [concerned about body weight]/unrestrained [not concerned about body weight]).
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