Resting energy expenditure and protein turnover are increased in patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Metabolism. 2011 Oct;60(10):1449-55. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2011.02.013. Epub 2011 May 6.


The mechanisms leading to weight loss in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are poorly understood. Changes in protein metabolism and systemic inflammation may contribute to increased resting energy expenditure (REE) in COPD, leading to an energy imbalance and loss of fat and fat-free mass. The objective of this study was to determine first whether REE was increased in patients with COPD and, second, whether this was associated with increased protein turnover and/or systemic inflammation. Resting energy expenditure was determined using indirect calorimetry in 14 stable outpatients with severe COPD (7 with low and 7 with preserved body mass indices) and 7 healthy controls. Endogenous leucine flux, leucine oxidation, and nonoxidative disposal, indices of whole-body protein breakdown, catabolism, and synthesis, were measured using intravenous infusions of (13)C-bicarbonate and 1-(13)C-leucine. Total body water, from which fat-free mass and fat mass were calculated, was determined using an intravenous bolus of deuterated water. Plasma markers of systemic inflammation were also measured. As a group, subjects with COPD had increased REE adjusted for fat-free mass (P < .001) and faster rates of endogenous leucine flux (P = .006) and nonoxidative leucine disposal (P = .002) compared with controls. There was a significant correlation between REE and both endogenous leucine flux (P = .02) and nonoxidative leucine disposal (P = .008). Plasma concentrations of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 were not different between COPD subjects and controls. Increased rates of protein turnover are associated with increased REE and loss of fat-free mass in COPD.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carbon Isotopes / administration & dosage
  • Carbon Isotopes / pharmacokinetics
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*
  • Radioactive Tracers
  • Rest* / physiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Proteins
  • Radioactive Tracers