A kinetic model of the citric acid cycle for calculating oxygen consumption from (13)C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) multiplet data has been developed. Measured oxygen consumption (MVO(2)) was compared with MVO(2) predicted by the model with (13)C NMR data obtained from rat hearts perfused with glucose and either [2-(13)C]acetate or [3-(13)C]pyruvate. The accuracy of MVO(2) measured from three subsets of NMR data was compared: glutamate C-4 and C-3 resonance areas; the doublet C4D34 (expressed as a fraction of C-4 area); and C-4 and C-3 areas plus several multiplets of C-2, C-3, and C-4. MVO(2) determined by set 2 (C4D34 only) gave the same degree of accuracy as set 3 (complete data); both were superior to set 1 (C-4 and C-3 areas). Analysis of the latter suffers from the correlation between citric acid cycle flux and exchange between alpha-ketoglutarate and glutamate, resulting in greater error in estimating MVO(2). Analysis of C4D34 is less influenced by correlation between parameters, and this single measurement provides the best opportunity for a noninvasive measurement of oxygen consumption.