Energy Metabolism Profile in Individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Implications for Clinical Management: A Systematic Review

Adv Nutr. 2017 Nov 15;8(6):905-915. doi: 10.3945/an.117.016253. Print 2017 Nov.


Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a rare genetic disorder associated with excessive weight gain. Hyperphagia associated with PWS may result in higher energy intake, but alterations in energy expenditure may also contribute to energy imbalance. The purpose of this critical literature review is to determine the presence of alterations in energy expenditure in individuals with PWS. Ten studies that measured total energy expenditure (TEE), resting energy expenditure (REE), sleep energy expenditure (SEE), activity energy expenditure (AEE), and diet induced thermogenesis (DIT) were included in this review. The studies provided evidence that absolute TEE, REE, SEE, and AEE are lower in individuals with PWS than in age-, sex-, and body mass index-matched individuals without the syndrome. Alterations in lean body mass and lower physical activity amounts appear to be responsible for the lower energy expenditure in PWS rather than metabolic differences. Regardless of the underlying mechanism for lower TEE, the estimation of energy requirements with the use of equations derived for the general population would result in weight gain in individuals with PWS. The determination of energy requirements for weight management in individuals with PWS requires a more comprehensive understanding of energy metabolism. Future studies should aim to comprehensively profile all specific components of energy expenditure in individuals with PWS with the use of appropriately matched controls and gold standard methods to measure energy metabolism and body composition. One component of energy expenditure that is yet to be explored in detail in PWS is DIT. A reduced DIT (despite differences in fat free mass), secondary to hormonal dysregulation, may be present in PWS individuals, leading to a reduced overall energy expenditure. Further research exploring DIT in PWS needs to be conducted. Dietary energy recommendations for weight management in PWS have not yet been clearly established.

Keywords: Prader-Willi syndrome; activity energy expenditure; diet-induced thermogenesis; energy metabolism; resting energy expenditure.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Thermogenesis / physiology