Predicted effects of small decreases in energy expenditure on weight gain in adult women
Small daily positive energy imbalances of 200 to 800 kJ (about 50 to 200 kcal) due to reduced resting energy expenditure (REE), reduced diet-induced thermogenesis, or physical inactivity are believed to predispose to obesity. However, estimates of the magnitude of the weight gain often fail to account for concurrent changes in body composition and increases in maintenance energy requirements as weight increases and energy equilibrium is re-established. Using previously reported data on body composition and REE in women and the energy cost of tissue deposition, we used mathematical models to predict the theoretical effect of a persistent reduction in energy expenditure on long-term weight gain, assuming no adaptation in energy intake. The analyses indicate the following effects of a reduced level of energy expenditure in lean and obese women: (i) REE rises more slowly with increasing degrees of obesity due to a declining proportion of the more metabolically active fat-free mass; so, for the same positive energy balance, a significantly greater weight gain is expected for obese than for lean women before energy equilibrium is re-established; (ii) due to the greater energy density of adipose tissue, the time course of weight gain to achieve energy balance is longer for obese subjects: in general, this is approximately five years for lean and ten years for obese women; (iii) the magnitude of weight gain of lean women in response to a reduced energy expenditure of 200 to 800 kJ/day is only about 3 to 15 kg, amounts insufficient to explain severe obesity.
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