Early adaptive thermogenesis is a determinant of weight loss after six weeks of caloric restriction in overweight subjects

Metabolism. 2020 Sep;110:154303. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2020.154303. Epub 2020 Jun 27.


Background: Adaptive thermogenesis during prolonged energy deficit refers to the greater than expected reduction in energy expenditure (EE) independent of concomitant loss of metabolically active body mass.

Objective: As inter-individual variability in the magnitude of adaptive thermogenesis may influence the extent of energy deficit thereby predicting the amount of weight reduction, we investigated whether early adaptive thermogenesis is a determinant of weight loss after 6 weeks of daily 50% caloric restriction in an inpatient setting.

Design and methods: The current study reports the results of an exploratory, secondary analysis in overweight but otherwise healthy subjects (n = 11, 7 men, 35 ± 9y, BMI = 40 ± 7 kg/m2, body fat = 63.3 ± 5.3%). Body composition and 24-h EE (24hEE) measurement in a whole-room indirect calorimeter were used to calculate the magnitude of adaptive thermogenesis while on caloric restriction after 1, 3 and 6 weeks. Energy deficit during caloric restriction was quantified via food, stool, and urine bomb calorimetry. Fasting hormonal concentrations (FT4, FT3, FGF21, leptin) were obtained at baseline and at weeks 3 and 6 during caloric restriction.

Results: The magnitude of adaptive thermogenesis in 24hEE after 1 week of caloric restriction was -178 ± 137 kcal/day (mean ± SD), was overall stable during and following caloric restriction, and demonstrated remarkable intra-individual consistency. A relatively greater decrease in 24hEE of 100 kcal/d after 1 week of caloric restriction was associated on average with reduced energy deficit by 8195 kcal over 6 weeks and predicted 2.0 kg less weight loss, of which 0.5 kg was fat mass, after 6 weeks. No correlations were found between hormonal concentrations and weight loss.

Conclusions: The extent of weight loss is influenced by the magnitude of adaptive thermogenesis in the early stage of caloric restriction. Although these results need replication in larger study groups with adequate statistical power, targeting adaptive thermogenesis may help to optimize long-term interventions in obesity therapy.

Keywords: Caloric restriction; Energy balance; Energy metabolism; Obesity; Thermogenesis; Weight loss.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / metabolism*
  • Thermogenesis*
  • Weight Loss*