Resting metabolic rate is associated with hunger, self-determined meal size, and daily energy intake and may represent a marker for appetite

Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;97(1):7-14. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.029975. Epub 2012 Nov 28.


Background: There are strong logical reasons why energy expended in metabolism should influence the energy acquired in food-intake behavior. However, the relation has never been established, and it is not known why certain people experience hunger in the presence of large amounts of body energy.

Objective: We investigated the effect of the resting metabolic rate (RMR) on objective measures of whole-day food intake and hunger.

Design: We carried out a 12-wk intervention that involved 41 overweight and obese men and women [mean ± SD age: 43.1 ± 7.5 y; BMI (in kg/m(2)): 30.7 ± 3.9] who were tested under conditions of physical activity (sedentary or active) and dietary energy density (17 or 10 kJ/g). RMR, daily energy intake, meal size, and hunger were assessed within the same day and across each condition.

Results: We obtained evidence that RMR is correlated with meal size and daily energy intake in overweight and obese individuals. Participants with high RMRs showed increased levels of hunger across the day (P < 0.0001) and greater food intake (P < 0.00001) than did individuals with lower RMRs. These effects were independent of sex and food energy density. The change in RMR was also related to energy intake (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: We propose that RMR (largely determined by fat-free mass) may be a marker of energy intake and could represent a physiologic signal for hunger. These results may have implications for additional research possibilities in appetite, energy homeostasis, and obesity. This trial was registered under international standard identification for controlled trials as ISRCTN47291569.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appetite / physiology*
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Body Composition
  • Diet
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Overweight / physiopathology

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN47291569