Maintenance of a Low-Fat Diet: Follow-up of the Women's Health Trial

Emily White, Ann L. Shattuck, Alan R. Kristal, Nicole Urban, Maureen M. Henderson, Ross L. Prentice, Emily White, Ann L. Shattuck, Maureen M. Henderson, Nicole Urban, Ross L. Prentice, William Insull, Myron Moskowitz, Susan Goldman, Margo N. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


This report examines the maintenance of a low-fat diet 1 year on average after the completion of intervention sessions among participants in the Women's Health Trial (WHT). The WHT was a randomized controlled trial of the feasibility of adoption of a low-fat diet among women of moderate or increased risk of breast cancer, conduced in Seattle, Houston, and Cincinnati in 1985-1988. The women randomized to the low-fat diet attended an intensive dietary intervention program for 5-37 months. Intervention women were highly successful in reducing their dietary fat intake from 40.0% of energy intake at baseline to 26.3% by the end of the trial, based on a food frequency questionnaire (or an estimated 24% adjusted for the inaccuracies of a food frequency questionnaire versus a 4-day diet record). During 1989, 1 year on average after the WHT ended, 448 intervention women and 457 control women (87% of eligibles) completed a follow-up survey to determine the degree of maintenance of the diet. The intervention women maintained the low-fat diet with an increase of only 1.4 percentage points of energy from fat, despite the fact that they had attended no further intervention sessions and had made no commitment to maintain the diet beyond the end of the WHT. Furthermore, the degree of maintenance of the low-fat diet was not dependent on the length of time in the intervention, which suggests that intervention led to a sustained change in eating habits after as little as 5-9 months (8-13 classes). Results and issues relating to objective measures of a low-fat diet, dietary changes in the control group, and the limitations of a food frequency instrument to accurately measure low fat diets are discussed. Health events did not differ significantly between the two groups, but the number of events was too small to draw any conclusions. The results of this study are encouraging for the feasibility of future dietary intervention trials and public health programs which will require sustained changes in diet patterns to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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