High Energy Density

You are what you eat; or put into scientific terms, does consumption of high energy density foods translate into weight gain? And are Japanese men or women more susceptible to weight gain? A decade-long study discovered that high energy density diets were associated with Japanese men were shown to gain more weight than women over that period.


Energy density (ED) foods, in metric terms, are represented by the amount of energy, or calories, per gram of food. In a foot-and-pounds system, 28 grams of food equals one ounce; 16 ounces of food, or one pound, equals 448 grams.

Researchers associated with institutions of medicine and higher learning in Japan and Brazil studied dietary habits and weight changes over a 10-year period in Japanese men and woman participating in the Takayama study.  Conducted between 1992 and 2002, the researchers aimed to further existing research by examining dietary ED, i.e. caloric intake, and its association with weight gain in a Japanese population. Previously, four similar studies probed five European populations; Danish and French populations; and non-Hispanic white women living in the U.S.A.

While the links between overweight and obesity leading to cardiovascular conditions, cancers and diabetes already had been established through prior studies, they noted no Asian population had been looked at. And members of those nations traditionally have lower rates of such diseases.

Data was obtained from 5778 men and 7440 women between 35 and 69 years old. At the beginning of the study, baseline measurements of height, body weight (BW), usual dietary intake, routine physical activity, smoking frequency and alcoholic-beverage and caffeine consumption activities, along with medical and reproductive histories were collected. Each participant’s ED was then calculated based on the amount of food consumed daily and its respective caloric content. Individuals’ daily beverage intake was excluded from this calculation.

Following the 10-year study period, the results showed the strongest association between ED and body weight in men with normal weight. No significant association was observed in women. However, as a study weakness, the researchers postulated that possibly, in the course of notating their individual measurements, women or overweight individuals might have a greater tendency to under report. As strengths, the scientists note that this is the first study to examine a Japanese population and is further fortified by the large group and long study period. Additionally, they suggest that their results could be extended to additional Asian populations.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition.


Written By: Susan Mercer Hinrichs, MA, MBA, CPhT

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