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Body composition and resting energy expenditure in humans: role of fat, fat-free mass and extracellular fluid


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine whether there are independent effects of extracellular fluid volume (ECF) and fat mass (FM) on resting energy expenditure (REE) relative to fat-free mass (FFM) in adult men and women.

METHODS: Multiple linear regression analysis was used to relate REE, as determined by indirect calorimetry, to FFM and FM (measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) and ECF (measured using bromide space and/or the radiosulfate washout space) in 153 women and 100 men with varying amounts of body fat.

RESULTS: REE correlated significantly with FFM and FM in women (r=0.65 and r=0.63, both P<0.001) and men (r=0.62 and r=0.48, both P<0.001, FFM and FM, respectively). In a multiple linear regression analysis FFM, FM and age significantly contributed to the ability to predict REE in both genders. The models that were derived were not significantly different between women and men. In women the contribution to REE from FM was easier to detect when FM was greater. Adjustment of FFM for ECF did not improve the relationship between FFM and REE.

CONCLUSIONS: FFM, FM and age are significant, independent predictors of REE in both men and women. Adjustment of FFM for ECF does not improve the ability of FFM to predict REE, which suggests that ECF is a highly integrated component of FFM in healthy adults. Expressing REE relative to FFM alone will introduce errors when lean and obese populations are compared.

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We wish to thank Rita Nelson, Carol Siverling and the staff of the Mayo GCRC for excellent technical assistance. Supported by grants DK45353, DK40484 and RR00585 from the US Public Health Service, the Minnesota Obesity Center (DK50456) and the Mayo Foundation.

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Correspondence to MD Jensen.

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Nielsen, S., Hensrud, D., Romanski, S. et al. Body composition and resting energy expenditure in humans: role of fat, fat-free mass and extracellular fluid. Int J Obes 24, 1153–1157 (2000).

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  • indirect calorimetry
  • dual energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • obesity

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