How much does it cost? Teaching physiology of energy metabolism in mice using an indirect calorimetry system in a practical course for veterinary students

Adv Physiol Educ. 2022 Mar 1;46(1):145-157. doi: 10.1152/advan.00027.2021. Epub 2021 Dec 9.


In endothermic mammals total energy expenditure (EE) is composed of basal metabolic rate (BMR), energy spent for muscle activity, thermoregulation, any kind of production (such as milk, meat, or egg production), and the thermic effect of feeding. The BMR is predominantly determined by body mass and the surface-to-volume ratio of the body. The EE can be quantified by either direct or indirect calorimetry. Direct calorimetry measures the rate of heat loss from the body, whereas indirect calorimetry measures oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production and calculates heat production from oxidative nutrient combustion. A deep and sustainable understanding of EE in animals is crucial for veterinarians to properly calculate and evaluate feed rations during special circumstances such as anesthesia or in situations with increased energy demands as commonly seen in high-yielding livestock. The practical class described in this article provides an experimental approach to understanding how EE can be measured and calculated by indirect calorimetry. Two important factors that affect the EE of animals (the thermic effect of feeding and the effect of ambient temperature) are measured. A profound knowledge about the energy requirements of animal life and its measurement is also relevant for education in general biology, animal and human physiology, and nutrition. Therefore, this teaching unit can equally well be implemented in other areas of life sciences.

Keywords: energy expenditure; low ambient temperature; open-circuit indirect calorimetry; respiratory quotient; thermic effect of feeding.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Students