Validation of several established equations for resting metabolic rate in obese and nonobese people

J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Sep;103(9):1152-9. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(03)00982-9.


Objective: To evaluate several equations for predicting resting metabolic rate against measured values in obese and nonobese people.

Design: Resting metabolic rate was measured with indirect calorimetry. Four calculation standards using various combinations of weight, height, and age were used to predict resting metabolic rate: a) Harris-Benedict equation, b) Harris-Benedict equation using adjusted body weight in obese individuals, c) Owen, and d) Mifflin. Main outcome was percentage of subjects whose calculated metabolic rate was outside a +/-10% limit from measured values. Subjects/Setting 130 nonhospitalized adult volunteers grouped by degree of obesity (range of body mass index, 18.8 to 96.8). Statistical Analysis Performed Analysis of proportions was used to determine differences in the percentage of subjects estimated accurately by each equation; alpha was set at 0.05.

Results: Calculated resting metabolic rate was more than 10% different from measured in 22% of subjects using the Mifflin equation, 33% using the Harris-Benedict equation (P=.05 vs Mifflin), and 35% using the Owen equation (P<.05 vs Mifflin). The error rate using Harris-Benedict with adjusted weight in obesity was 74% (vs 36% in obese subjects using actual weight in the standard Harris-Benedict equation).

Applications/conclusion: Of the calculation standards tested, the Mifflin standard provided an accurate estimate of actual resting metabolic rate in the largest percentage of nonobese and obese individuals and therefore deserves consideration as the standard for calculating resting metabolic rate in obese and nonobese adults. Use of adjusted body weight in the Harris-Benedict equation led to less overestimation by that equation in obese people at the expense of increased incidence of underestimation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity, Morbid / metabolism
  • Predictive Value of Tests