Disproportionately increased 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in young men with low birth weight during a high-fat overfeeding challenge

Eur J Nutr. 2016 Sep;55(6):2045-52. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1018-7. Epub 2015 Aug 22.


Background: Low birth weight (LBW) associates with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. LBW individuals exhibit disproportionately reduced peripheral insulin action and increased fat oxidation after a 5-day high-fat overfeeding (HFO) challenge. Furthermore, LBW men exhibit increased nocturnal fat oxidation during energy balance and low energy expenditure (EE) during fasting. We hypothesized that short-term HFO could further unmask key defects of whole-body energy metabolism in LBW men.

Methods: Eighteen LBW (2717 ± 268 g) and 26 normal birth weight (NBW) (3893 ± 207 g) healthy young men were included in a 5-day HFO (60 E % fat, +50 % calories) study. The 24-h EE, respiratory quotient and substrate oxidation rates were assessed by indirect calorimetry using respiratory chambers.

Results: After adjusting for body composition, the LBW subjects displayed increased nighttime EE (P = 0.02) compared with NBW controls during HFO. Nighttime glucose oxidation rate was decreased (P = 0.06, adjusted P = 0.05), while both adjusted 24-h (P = 0.07) and nighttime (P = 0.02) fat oxidation rate was elevated in LBW subjects. The relative contribution of fat oxidation to EE was increased in LBW compared with NBW men during the entire 24-h period (P = 0.06) and during nighttime (P = 0.03).

Conclusions: We suggest that disproportionally enhanced fat oxidation in LBW individuals during short-term HFO represents a compensatory response to reduced subcutaneous adipose tissue expandability and storage capacity. The extent to which this mechanism may lead to, or be replaced by insulin resistance, ectopic fat accumulation and/or glucose intolerance during long-term HFO in LBW needs further studies.

Keywords: Fat overfeeding; Low birth weight; Whole-body energy metabolism.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glucose Intolerance
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight / growth & development*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fats
  • Insulin