Long-term measurements of energy expenditure in humans using a respiration chamber

Am J Clin Nutr. 1983 Dec;38(6):989-98. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/38.6.989.


There is a need to measure energy expenditure in man for a period of 24 h or even several days. The respiration chamber offers a unique opportunity to reach this goal. It allows the study of energy and nutrient balance; from the latter, acute changes in body composition can be obtained. The respiration chamber built in Lausanne is an air-tight room (5 m long, 2.5 m wide, and 2.5 m high) which forms an open circuit ventilated indirect calorimeter. The physical activity of the subject inside the chamber is continuously measured using a radar system based on the Doppler effect. Energy expenditure of obese and lean women was continuously measured over 24 h and diet-induced thermogenesis was assessed by using an approach which allows one to subtract the energy expended for physical activity from the total energy expenditure. Expressed in absolute terms, total energy expenditure was more elevated in the obese than in the lean controls. Basal metabolic rate was also higher in the obese than in the controls, but diet-induced thermogenesis was found to be blunted in the obese. In a second study, the effect of changing the carbohydrate/lipid content of the diet on fuel utilization was assessed in young healthy subjects with the respiration chamber. After a 7-day adaptation to a high-carbohydrate low-fat diet, the fuel mixture oxidized matched the change in nutrient intake. A last example of the use of the respiration chamber is the thermogenic response and changes in body composition due to a 7-day overfeeding of carbohydrate. Diet-induced thermogenesis was found to be 27%; on the last day of overfeeding, carbohydrate balance was reached by oxidation of 50% of the carbohydrate intake, the remaining 50% being converted into lipid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Calorimetry, Indirect / methods
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Exertion


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats