Evidence for the existence of adaptive thermogenesis during weight loss

Br J Nutr. 2001 Jun;85(6):715-23. doi: 10.1079/bjn2001348.


The present study was performed to further investigate the adaptive component of thermogenesis that appears during prolonged energy restriction. Fifteen obese men and twenty obese women underwent a 15-week weight-loss programme. During this programme, body weight and composition as well as resting energy expenditure (REE) were measured at baseline, after 2 and 8 weeks of energy restriction (-2929 kJ/d) and drug therapy (or placebo), and finally 2-4 weeks after the end of the 15-week drug therapy and energy restriction intervention, when subjects were weight stable. Regression equations were established in a control population of the same age. These equations were then used to predict REE in obese men and women at baseline, after 2 and 8 weeks, as well as after the completion of the programme. In both men and women body weight and fat mass were significantly reduced in all cases) while fat-free mass remained unchanged throughout the programme. At baseline, REE predicted from the regression equation was not significantly different from the measured REE in men, while in women the measured REE was 13 % greater than predicted. After 2 weeks of energy restriction, measured REE had fallen by 469 and 635 kJ/d more than predicted and this difference reached 963 and 614 kJ/d by week 8 of treatment in men and women respectively. Once body-weight stability was recovered at the end of the programme, changes in REE remained below predicted changes in men (-622 kJ/d). However, in women changes in predicted and measured REE were no longer different at this time, even if the women were maintaining a reduced body weight. In summary, the present results confirm the existence of adaptive thermogenesis and give objective measurements of this component during weight loss in obese men and women, while they also emphasize that in women this component seems to be essentially explained by the energy restriction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*