There is significant variation in metabolic rate in humans, independent of differences in body size, body composition, age, and gender. Although it has been generally held that the normal human "set-point" body temperature is 37 degrees C, these interindividual variations in metabolic rate also suggest possible variations in body temperature. To examine the possibility of correlations between metabolic rate and body temperature, triplicate measurements of oral temperatures were made before and after measurement of 24-h energy expenditure in a respiratory chamber in 23 Pima Indian men. Fasting oral temperatures varied more between individuals than can be attributed to methodological errors or intraindividual variation. Oral temperatures correlated with sleeping (r = 0.80, P < 0.0001), and 24-h (r = 0.48, P < 0.02) metabolic rates adjusted for differences in body size, body composition, and age. Similarly, in the 32 Caucasian men of the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Study, oral temperature correlated with adjusted metabolic rate, and the interindividual differences in body temperature were maintained throughout semistarvation and refeeding. These results suggest that a low body temperature and a low metabolic rate might be two signs of an obesity-prone syndrome in humans.