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, 5 (4), 413-423

Changes in Energy Expenditure With Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans


Changes in Energy Expenditure With Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans

Manfred J Müller et al. Curr Obes Rep.


Metabolic adaptation to weight changes relates to body weight control, obesity and malnutrition. Adaptive thermogenesis (AT) refers to changes in resting and non-resting energy expenditure (REE and nREE) which are independent from changes in fat-free mass (FFM) and FFM composition. AT differs in response to changes in energy balance. With negative energy balance, AT is directed towards energy sparing. It relates to a reset of biological defence of body weight and mainly refers to REE. After weight loss, AT of nREE adds to weight maintenance. During overfeeding, energy dissipation is explained by AT of the nREE component only. As to body weight regulation during weight loss, AT relates to two different set points with a settling between them. During early weight loss, the first set is related to depleted glycogen stores associated with the fall in insulin secretion where AT adds to meet brain's energy needs. During maintenance of reduced weight, the second set is related to low leptin levels keeping energy expenditure low to prevent triglyceride stores getting too low which is a risk for some basic biological functions (e.g., reproduction). Innovative topics of AT in humans are on its definition and assessment, its dynamics related to weight loss and its constitutional and neuro-endocrine determinants.

Keywords: Activity-related energy expenditure (AEE); Adaptive thermogenesis (AT); Body composition; Caloric restriction; Diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT); Energy balance; Energy expenditure; Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT); Fat mass; Fat-free mass (FFM); Insulin; Leptin; Metabolic efficiency; Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT); Obesity; Overfeeding; Resting energy expenditure (REE); SNS activity; Thyroid hormones; Total body water (TBW); Total energy expenditure (TEE); Weight loss; Weight maintenance.

Conflict of interest statement

Compliance with Ethical StandardsConflict of InterestManfred J. Müller is a consultant of Seca GmbH (Hamburg, Germany).Janna Enderle declares that she has no conflict of interest.Anja Bosy-Westphal declares that she has no conflict of interest.Human and Animal Rights and Informed ConsentThis article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Inter-individual variances in the resting (=ΔREEadj FFM) and non-resting compartment (ΔAEEadj FFM) of adaptive thermogenesis (AT) during controlled 3 weeks under-feeding (at −50 % of energy requirements in green) and 2 weeks re-feeding (at +50 % of energy needs in red) protocol in 31 healthy and normal weight young men. For original data see ref 23. The subjects were ranked according their REE before intervention (upper panel). After adjustment for FFM, there were no interindividual differences in REE measured before the weight cycle. Mean group changes with weight loss and weight gain are given on the right side of the figure. AT occurred at underfeeding only. REE resting energy expenditure, AEE activity-related energy expenditure, FFM fat free mass (colour figure online)
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Association between adaptive thermogenesis and weight loss in 151 overweight patients after dietary or bariatric surgery-induced weight loss. Data from refs 1, 55, and 56
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Overview about metabolic adaptation with weight loss and during maintenance of reduced body weight. During the first week of caloric restriction, adaptive thermogenesis (AT) relates to the resting component of energy expenditure (REE) and follows the depletion of hepatic glycogen stores due to the immediate fall in insulin secretion. Mobilisation of glycogen is associated with changes in fluid balance and fat free mass. AT is seen as an immediate adaptation to negative energy balance as part of body weight regulation according to a set point. With ongoing underfeeding and weight loss, phase 2 is characterised by a loss of fat mass which follows the negative energy balance up to a settling point where a new steady state is reached. Then, maintenance of reduced body weight (phase 3) is due the degree of reduced fat mass and low leptin levels associated with a low T3 state and low SNS activity. This endocrine pattern carries the risk of weight regain. The inserted graph on the right shows that during phase 1, AT is characterised by an adaptation of the resting component of energy expenditure. This is maintained throughout further weight loss and during successful maintenance of reduced body weight. By contrast, adaptation in the non-resting component of energy expenditure (nREE) is proportional to weight loss. Up to now, early changes in nREE have not been investigated, and data are available after 3 weeks of semistarvation only [23]. FFM fat free mass; ICW intracellular water; ECW extracellular water; FM fat mass; OM masses of high metabolically active organs = sum of masses of brain, heart, liver, and kidneys; MM skeletal muscle mass; FFA free fatty acids; T3 tri-iodothyronine; SNS sympathetic nervous system activity; NP natriuretic peptides; Gluc-ox glucose oxidation rate; lip-ox lipid oxidation rate; prot-ox protein oxidation rate. See text for further details and references

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