Predictors of body composition and body energy changes in response to chronic overfeeding

Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Feb;38(2):236-42. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.77. Epub 2013 May 20.


Objective: We have previously shown that 24 young lean men (12 pairs of identical twins) subjected to a standardized 353 MJ (84 000 kcal) overfeeding protocol over 100 days exhibited individual differences in body weight and composition gains. The mean (+s.d.) gains in fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) were 5.4+1.9 kg and 2.7+1.5 kg for a total body energy (BE) gain of 221+75 MJ, representing 63% of the energy surplus consumed. We report here on the most important baseline correlates of these overfeeding-induced changes with the aim of identifying biomarkers of the response.

Results: Baseline maximal oxygen uptake per kg body mass was negatively correlated with gains in weight, FM and BE (all P<0.05). Enzyme activities indicative of skeletal muscle oxidative potential correlated with gains in FM and BE (all P<0.05). Baseline thyroid-stimulating hormone levels in response to thyrotropin-releasing hormone stimulation correlated positively with changes in FM-to-FFM ratio (P<0.05). Plasma concentrations of androstenediol sulfate, dehydroepiandrosterone and 17-hydroxy pregnenolone were negatively correlated with gains in FM and BE (0.01<P<0.05), whereas the level of estrone was negatively correlated and androsterone glucoronide was positively correlated with FFM gains (P<0.05). Baseline leptin and abdominal fat cell size correlated positively with gains in weight, FM and BE (P<0.05). When compared with the six highest BE gainers, the six lowest gainers exhibited higher thermic effect of a meal (TEM) and plasma levels of total testosterone, cortisol, estradiol, androstenedione and androstenediol sulfate (all P<0.05). High baseline levels of total TEM, testosterone and androstenediol sulfate were associated with lower FM gains, whereas high baseline levels of FT4 and estrone were found in low-FFM gainers.

Conclusion: Although none of the variables exerted individually an overwhelmingly strong influence on overfeeding-induced changes, baseline FFM, maximal oxygen uptake, muscle oxidative capacity, androgens and leptin levels were the most consistent significant biomarkers of the responsiveness to chronic overfeeding.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Overnutrition / metabolism*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Twins, Monozygotic


  • Adiponectin
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Leptin