Contribution of individual organ mass loss to weight loss-associated decline in resting energy expenditure

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Oct;90(4):993-1001. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27402. Epub 2009 Aug 26.


Background: Weight loss leads to reduced resting energy expenditure (REE) independent of fat-free mass (FFM) and fat mass (FM) loss, but the effect of changes in FFM composition is unclear.

Objective: We hypothesized that a decrease in REE adjusted for FFM with weight loss would be partly explained by a disproportionate loss in the high metabolic activity component of FFM.

Design: Forty-five overweight and obese women [body mass index (in kg/m(2)): 28.7-46.8] aged 22-46 y followed a low-calorie diet for 12.7 +/- 2.2 wk. Body composition was measured by magnetic resonance imaging, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and a 4-compartment model. REE measured by indirect calorimetry (REEm) was compared with REE calculated from detailed body-composition analysis (REEc) by using specific organ metabolic rates (ie, organ REE/mass).

Results: Weight loss was 9.5 +/- 3.4 kg (8.0 +/- 2.9 kg FM and 1.5 +/- 3.1 kg FFM). Decreases in REE (-8%), free triiodothyronine concentrations (-8%), muscle (-3%), heart (-5%), liver (-4%), and kidney mass (-6%) were observed (all P < 0.05). Relative loss in organ mass was significantly higher (P < 0.01) than was the change in low metabolically active FFM components (muscle, bone, and residual mass). After weight loss, REEm - REEc decreased from 0.24 +/- 0.58 to 0.01 +/- 0.44 MJ/d (P = 0.01) and correlated with the decrease in free triiodothyronine concentrations (r = 0.33, P < 0.05). Women with high adaptive thermogenesis (defined as REEm - REEc < -0.17 MJ/d) had less weight loss and conserved FFM, liver, and kidney mass.

Conclusions: After weight loss, almost 50% of the decrease in REEm was explained by losses in FFM and FM. The variability in REEm explained by body composition increased to 60% by also considering the weight of individual organs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Body Fluid Compartments / physiology*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Organ Size / physiology*
  • Overweight / metabolism*
  • Rest
  • Thermogenesis / physiology
  • Triiodothyronine / blood
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Triiodothyronine