Analysis of energy metabolism in humans: A review of methodologies

Mol Metab. 2016 Sep 20;5(11):1057-1071. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2016.09.005. eCollection 2016 Nov.


Background: Obesity is a consequence of chronic energy imbalance. We need accurate and precise measurements of energy intake and expenditure, as well as the related behaviors, to fully understand how energy homeostasis is regulated in order to develop interventions and evaluate their effectiveness to combat the global obesity epidemic.

Scope of review: We provide an in-depth review of the methodologies currently used to measure energy intake and expenditure in humans, including their principles, advantages, and limitations in the clinical research setting. The aim is to provide researchers with a comprehensive guide to conduct obesity research of the highest possible quality.

Major conclusions: An array of methodologies is available to measure various aspects of energy metabolism and none is perfect under all circumstances. The choice of methods should be specific to particular research questions with practicality and quality of data the priorities for consideration. A combination of complementary measurements may be preferable. There is an imperative need to develop new methodologies to improve the accuracy and precision of energy intake assessments.

Keywords: Clinical study methodology; Dietary assessment; Energy expenditure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Basal Metabolism
  • Body Weight
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Obesity*