Relative fat oxidation is higher in children than adults

Nutr J. 2007 Aug 16:6:19. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-6-19.


Background: Prepubescent children may oxidize fatty acids more readily than adults. Therefore, dietary fat needs would be higher for children compared with adults. The dietary fat recommendations are higher for children 4 to 18 yrs (i.e., 25 to 35% of energy) compared with adults (i.e., 20 to 35% of energy). Despite this, many parents and children restrict dietary fat for health reasons.

Methods: This study assessed whether rates of fat oxidation are similar between prepubescent children and adults. Ten children (8.7 +/- 1.4 yr, 33 +/- 13 kg mean +/- SD) in Tanner stage 1 and 10 adults (41.6 +/- 8 yr, 74 +/- 13 kg) were fed a weight maintenance diet for three days to maintain body weight and to establish a consistent background for metabolic rate measurements (all foods provided). Metabolic rate was measured on three separate occasions before and immediately after breakfast and for 9 hrs using a hood system (twice) or a room calorimeter (once) where continuous metabolic measurements were taken.

Results: During all three sessions whole body fat oxidation was higher in children (lower RQ) compared to adults (mean RQ= 0.84 +/- .016 for children and 0.87 +/- .02, for adults, p < 0.02). Although, total grams of fat oxidized was similar in children (62.7 +/- 20 g/24 hrs) compared to adults (51.4 +/- 19 g/24 hrs), the grams of fat oxidized relative to calorie expenditure was higher in children (0.047 +/- .01 g/kcal, compared to adults (0.032 +/- .01 p < 0.02). Females oxidized more fat relative to calorie expenditure than males of a similar age. A two way ANOVA showed no interaction between gender and age in terms of fat oxidation.

Conclusion: These data suggest that fat oxidation relative to total calorie expenditure is higher in prepubescent children than in adults. Consistent with current dietary guidelines, a moderate fat diet is appropriate for children within the context of a diet that meets their energy and nutrient needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Child
  • Diet / methods
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Factors
  • Urea / urine


  • Dietary Fats
  • Urea