A more comprehensive understanding of the effects of weight loss on the changes in resting energy expenditure (EE) is relevant. A MEDLINE search was performed to identify studies with information relevant to this systematic review. From this search, the mean rate of resting EE decrease relative to weight loss was calculated from 90 available publications. A decrease of resting EE relative to weight loss of -15.4 +/- 8.7 kcal kg(-1) was observed from 2977 [corrected] subjects. No sex differences were noted in the overall resting EE decrease relative to weight loss. However, a significant sex differences was seen with pharmacological interventions, which seemed to depress the resting EE relative to weight loss to a greater extent in men than in women (P < 0.05). A greater drop in resting EE relative to weight loss was observed for short interventions (more than 2 but less than 6 weeks) when compared with long interventions (<6 weeks) (-27.7 +/- 6.7 vs. -12.8 +/- 7.1 kcal kg(-1)) (P < 0.001). Men and women have a similar decrease in resting EE relative to weight loss except in the case of pharmacological interventions. Short interventions also produced greater resting EE losses relative to weight loss.