Diet and exercise studies of premenopausal women have shown reductions in obesity and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Forty-one healthy, moderately obese (120-140% of ideal body weight, LBW), postmenopausal women (65.6 +/- 3.3 y) participating in 24-wk diet or diet + exercise programs were studied to determine whether similar CVD risk reduction would occur. Daily energy need (DEN) was estimated from basal energy expenditure and self-reported activity. The diet + exercise group (n = 16) reduced their daily energy intake (DEI) by 2092 kJ from their DEN and expended 837 kJ/d in walking and resistance exercise. The two diet-only groups (n = 13 and n = 12) reduced their DEI by 2092 and 2929 kJ from their DEN, respectively. Body weight, waist-to-hip and subscapula-to-triceps ratios, blood lipids (total, low-density-lipoprotein, and high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, and triacylglycerols), glucose, and insulin concentrations were measured at baseline and after 12 and 24 wk of diet and diet + exercise. Data were analyzed by using analysis of variance with repeated measures (P < or = 0.05) and Tukey's post hoc test. Loss of body weight was significant for all groups between baseline and 12 and 24 wk (baseline: 79.3 +/- 7.6 kg; 12 wk; 75.1 +/- 7.7 kg; 24 wk; 72.8 +/- 8.0 kg) but did not differ among groups. No significant time or treatment effects were observed between baseline and 24 wk for changes in mean blood lipid, glucose, and fasting insulin concentrations or measures of body fat distribution. Although 24 wk of diet or diet+exercise significantly reduced body weight in this group, this loss in body weight was not accompanied by a reduction of other commonly accepted CVD risks.