A Human Thrifty Phenotype Associated With Less Weight Loss During Caloric Restriction

Diabetes. 2015 Aug;64(8):2859-67. doi: 10.2337/db14-1881. Epub 2015 May 11.


Successful weight loss is variable for reasons not fully elucidated. Whether effective weight loss results from smaller reductions in energy expenditure during caloric restriction is not known. We analyzed whether obese individuals with a "thrifty" phenotype, that is, greater reductions in 24-h energy expenditure during fasting and smaller increases with overfeeding, lose less weight during caloric restriction than those with a "spendthrift" phenotype. During a weight-maintaining period, 24-h energy expenditure responses to fasting and 200% overfeeding were measured in a whole-room indirect calorimeter. Volunteers then underwent 6 weeks of 50% caloric restriction. We calculated the daily energy deficit (kilocalories per day) during caloric restriction, incorporating energy intake and waste, energy expenditure, and daily activity. We found that a smaller reduction in 24-h energy expenditure during fasting and a larger response to overfeeding predicted more weight loss over 6 weeks, even after accounting for age, sex, race, and baseline weight, as well as a greater rate of energy deficit accumulation. The success of dietary weight loss efforts is influenced by the energy expenditure response to caloric restriction. Greater decreases in energy expenditure during caloric restriction predict less weight loss, indicating the presence of thrifty and spendthrift phenotypes in obese humans.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00687115.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Metabolism / genetics
  • Body Composition / genetics
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / genetics*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Phenotype*
  • Weight Loss / genetics*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00687115