Background

In the US, 48% of adults report trying to lose weight in the past year. Increased fruit and vegetable (F/V) intake is often promoted as a strategy for weight loss because of the lower caloric density. We previously showed that increased F/V intake (as measured by carotenoid levels) was correlated with increased weight and fat loss during a weight loss intervention, but best weight loss results were seen when increased F/V intake was part of a concerted effort to reduce total caloric intake. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if individuals from a large general population who report trying to lose weight (dieters) eat more F/V than those not trying to lose weight (non-dieters).

Methods

We assessed F/V intake among dieters (n=328) vs non-dieters (n=186) by non-invasively measuring changes in carotenoids, a biomarker of total F/V intake. Participants were asked, “Are you currently trying to lose weight?” ANOVA was used to compare mean carotenoid scores between dieters and non-dieters with gender and ethnicity as co-variates.

Results

Among the 514 participants (74% Hispanic, 67% female), dieters had a significantly lower carotenoid score (meanSD: 267.4105.7) than non-dieters (297.3115.1; f=9.175, 506 df, p=0.002). There were no between-group differences by ethnicity or gender (p>0.1).

Conclusions

This study suggests that dieters in a general population seem to have lower F/V intakes than non-dieters, contrary to expectations that dieters would be more likely to eat more F/V as a strategy to reduce overall caloric intake. This may indicate that, in this population, the strategy to increase F/V intake, as part of an overall attempt to maintain a negative energy balance, is not commonly practiced. Additional research could explore whether or not a broad campaign to promote F/V intake, as a strategy within the context of caloric restriction, could improve weight loss efforts.