No consistent evidence of a disproportionately low resting energy expenditure in long-term successful weight-loss maintainers

Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Oct 1;108(4):658-666. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy179.


Background: Evidence in humans is equivocal in regards to whether resting energy expenditure (REE) decreases to a greater extent than predicted for the loss of body mass with weight loss, and whether this disproportionate decrease in REE persists with weight-loss maintenance.

Objectives: We aimed to1) determine if a lower-than-predicted REE is present in a sample of successful weight-loss maintainers (WLMs) and 2) determine if amount of weight loss or duration of weight-loss maintenance are correlated with a lower-than-predicted REE in WLMs.

Design: Participants (18-65 y old) were recruited in 3 groups: WLMs (maintaining ≥13.6 kg weight loss for ≥1 y, n = 34), normal-weight controls [NCs, body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) similar to current BMI of WLMs, n = 35], and controls with overweight/obesity (OCs, BMI similar to pre-weight-loss maximum BMI of WLMs, n = 33). REE was measured (REEm) with indirect calorimetry. Predicted REE (REEp) was determined via 1) a best-fit linear regression developed with the use of REEm, age, sex, fat-free mass, and fat mass from our control groups and 2) three standard predictive equations.

Results: REEm in WLMs was accurately predicted by equations developed from NCs and OCs (±1%) and by 3 standard predictive equations (±3%). In WLMs, individual differences between REEm and REEp ranged from -257 to +163 kcal/d. A lower REEm compared with REEp was correlated with amount of weight lost (r = 0.36, P < 0.05) but was not correlated with duration of weight-loss maintenance (r = 0.04, P = 0.81).

Conclusions: We found no consistent evidence of a significantly lower REE than predicted in a sample of long-term WLMs based on predictive equations developed from NCs and OCs as well as 3 standard predictive equations. Results suggest that sustained weight loss may not always result in a substantial, disproportionately low REE. This trial was registered at as NCT03422380.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight Maintenance / physiology*
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mathematical Concepts
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Thermogenesis
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Associated data