Mathematical model for the contribution of individual organs to non-zero y-intercepts in single and multi-compartment linear models of whole-body energy expenditure

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 28;9(7):e103301. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103301. eCollection 2014.


Mathematical models for the dependence of energy expenditure (EE) on body mass and composition are essential tools in metabolic phenotyping. EE scales over broad ranges of body mass as a non-linear allometric function. When considered within restricted ranges of body mass, however, allometric EE curves exhibit 'local linearity.' Indeed, modern EE analysis makes extensive use of linear models. Such models typically involve one or two body mass compartments (e.g., fat free mass and fat mass). Importantly, linear EE models typically involve a non-zero (usually positive) y-intercept term of uncertain origin, a recurring theme in discussions of EE analysis and a source of confounding in traditional ratio-based EE normalization. Emerging linear model approaches quantify whole-body resting EE (REE) in terms of individual organ masses (e.g., liver, kidneys, heart, brain). Proponents of individual organ REE modeling hypothesize that multi-organ linear models may eliminate non-zero y-intercepts. This could have advantages in adjusting REE for body mass and composition. Studies reveal that individual organ REE is an allometric function of total body mass. I exploit first-order Taylor linearization of individual organ REEs to model the manner in which individual organs contribute to whole-body REE and to the non-zero y-intercept in linear REE models. The model predicts that REE analysis at the individual organ-tissue level will not eliminate intercept terms. I demonstrate that the parameters of a linear EE equation can be transformed into the parameters of the underlying 'latent' allometric equation. This permits estimates of the allometric scaling of EE in a diverse variety of physiological states that are not represented in the allometric EE literature but are well represented by published linear EE analyses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Organ Size / physiology