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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Dec;27(12):1578-83.

Body weight gain in free-living Pima Indians: effect of energy intake vs expenditure.

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  • 1Clinical Diabetes and Nutrition Section, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services,Phoenix, AZ 85016, USA.



Obesity results from a chronic imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. However, experimental evidence of the relative contribution of interindividual differences in energy intake and expenditure (resting or due to physical activity) to weight gain is limited.


To assess prospectively the association between baseline measurements of daily energy metabolism and weight changes by studying free-living adult Pima Indians, one of the most obese populations in the world.


A study of the pathogenesis of obesity in the Pima Indians living in Southwestern Arizona. The participants were 92 nondiabetic Pima Indians (64M/28F, 35+/-12 y, 35+/-9% body fat; mean+/-s.d.). At baseline, free-living daily energy metabolism was assessed by doubly labeled water and resting metabolic rate (RMR) by indirect calorimetry. Data on changes in body weight (5.8+/-6.5 kg) over a follow-up period of 4+/-3 y were available in 74 (49M/25F) of the 92 subjects.


The baseline calculated total energy intake (r=0.25, P=0.028) and RMR (r=-0.28, P=0.016) were significantly associated with changes in body weight. The baseline energy expenditure due to physical activity was not associated with changes in body weight.


Using state-of-the-art methods to assess energy intake and expenditure in free-living conditions, we show for the first time that the baseline calculated total energy intake is a determinant of changes in body weight in Pima Indians. These data also confirm that a low RMR is a risk factor for weight gain in this population.

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