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J Nutr. 1993 Feb;123(2 Suppl):474-80.

Energy expenditure, aging and body composition.

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  • 1USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111.


We investigated the importance of adaptive variations in energy expenditure in the regulation of energy balance in young and elderly men of normal body weight leading unrestricted lives. Changes were measured in total and resting energy expenditure and body composition in response to overeating by approximately 4.2 MJ/d or undereating by 3.3 MJ/d for 21 d in 39 young and elderly men consuming a typical diet. In the young men, an average of 85-90% of the excess energy intake during overeating was deposited. During underfeeding, mobilization of body energy compensated for an average of 65% of the energy deficit in these subjects. The resting metabolic rate, averaged for fasting and fed states, increased during overfeeding (+0.63 +/- 0.20 MJ/d, P < 0.01) and decreased during underfeeding (-0.42 +/- 0.12 MJ/d), but at least some of these changes were due to the obligatory expenditure associated with nutrient assimilation. There was no significant change in energy expenditure for physical activity or thermoregulation from overfeeding or underfeeding. Preliminary results indicate that aging had no effect on responses to overfeeding or underfeeding. These findings suggest that adaptive variations in energy expenditure are not the major determinant of energy regulation in young adults of normal body weight and that, instead, energy balance is maintained on a day-to-day basis through the control of nutrient intakes.

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