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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2002 Jul;93(1):77-84.

Effect of cold exposure on fuel utilization in humans: plasma glucose, muscle glycogen, and lipids.

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DĂ©partement de Biologie, Canada G9A 5H7.


The relative roles of circulatory glucose, muscle glycogen, and lipids in shivering thermogenesis are unclear. Using a combination of indirect calorimetry and stable isotope methodology ([U-13C]glucose ingestion), we have quantified the oxidation rates of these substrates in men acutely exposed to cold for 2 h (liquid conditioned suit perfused with 10 degrees C water). Cold exposure stimulated heat production by 2.6-fold and increased the oxidation of plasma glucose from 39.4 +/- 2.4 to 93.9 +/- 5.5 mg/min (+138%), of muscle glycogen from 126.6 +/- 7.8 to 264.2 +/- 36.9 mg glucosyl units/min (+109%), and of lipids from 46.9 +/- 3.2 to 176.5 +/- 17.3 mg/min (+376%). Despite the observed increase in plasma glucose oxidation, this fuel only supplied 10% of the energy for heat generation. The major source of carbohydrate was muscle glycogen (75% of all glucose oxidized), and lipids produced as much heat as all other fuels combined. During prolonged, low-intensity shivering, we conclude that total heat production is unequally shared among lipids (50%), muscle glycogen (30%), plasma glucose (10%), and proteins (10%). Therefore, future research should focus on lipids and muscle glycogen that provide most of the energy for heat production.

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