The aim of this study was to determine after 52 weeks whether advice to follow a lower carbohydrate diet, either high in monounsaturated fat or low fat, high in protein had differential effects in a free-living community setting. Following weight loss on either a high monounsaturated fat, standard protein (HMF; 50 % fat, 20 % protein (67 g/d), 30 % carbohydrate) or a high protein, moderate fat (HP) (40 % protein (136 g/d), 30 % fat, 30 % carbohydrate) energy-restricted diet (6000 kJ/d) subjects were asked to maintain the same dietary pattern without intensive dietary counselling for the following 36 weeks. Overall weight loss was 6·2 (sd 7·3) kg (P < 0·01 for time with no diet effect, 7·6 (sd 8·1) kg, HMF v. 4·8 (sd 6·6) kg, HP). In a multivariate regression model predictors of weight loss at the end of the study were sex, age and reported percentage energy from protein (R2 0·22, P < 0·05 for the whole model). Fasting plasma insulin decreased (P < 0·01, with no difference between diets), 13·9 (sd 4·6) to 10·2 (sd 5·2) mIU/l, but fasting plasma glucose was not reduced. Neither total cholesterol nor LDL-cholesterol were different but HDL was higher, 1·19 (sd 0·26) v. 1·04 (sd 0·29) (P < 0·001 for time, no diet effect), while TAG was lower, 1·87 (sd 1·23) v. 2·22 (sd 1·15) mmol/l (P < 0·05 for time, no diet effect). C-reactive protein decreased (3·97 (sd 2·84) to 2·43 (sd 2·29) mg/l, P < 0·01). Food records showed that compliance to the prescribed dietary patterns was poor. After 1 year there remained a clinically significant weight loss and improvement in cardiovascular risk factors with no adverse effects of a high monounsaturated fat diet.