Previous studies have shown that energy restriction (ER) or low-fat (LF) diets have beneficial effects on high-fat (HF) diet-induced obesity and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. However, comparison between ER and low-fat diet regarding the effect on insulin resistance and lipid metabolism has not been reported. After inducing insulin resistance by HF feeding for 20 weeks, male C57BL/6J mice were divided into 3 groups. For a period of 12 weeks, group 1 received energy restriction (70% of ad libitum, HF diet), group 2 LF diet, and group 3 maintained on HF diet. Body weight and energy intake were reduced equally in ER and LF feeding. Plasma insulin levels were decreased on LF feeding, but were unchanged on ER, when compared with HF feeding. Glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity tests revealed that insulin sensitivity was improved more efficiently by LF feeding than on ER. Plasma triglyceride (TG) levels were lower on LF feeding compared with ER and HF feeding. Measurement of hepatic very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-TG production revealed a lower production after LF diet feeding or ER compared with HF diet feeding. In summary, our data show that LF diet has a higher potential than ER to improve HF diet-induced insulin resistance, and that there is an association between improvement of insulin resistance and decrease of TG levels. Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.