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Infusionstherapie. 1990 Apr;17(2):108-12.

Energy expenditure in the obese: is there a thrifty gene?

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Clinical Diabetes and Nutrition Section, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Phoenix, Arizona.


Seven to eight thousand Pima Indians are presently living in the southwestern desert of Arizona. The prevalence of type II diabetes in this population exceeds 45% and more than 75% of the Pimas are obese. In 1962, Neel proposed that obesity in populations like the Pima Indians might be the expression of a "thrifty gene" which becomes detrimental with progress. Since 1982, longitudinal studies have been conducted including measurements of metabolic rate in 200 non-diabetic Pima Indians and have shown that 1) at any given body weight and body composition, there is quite a large variability in the resting metabolic rate which is not accounted for by intra-individual variability or errors of the methods; 2) metabolic rate after adjustment for body composition and body weight is a familial trait; 3) a low metabolic rate is a risk factor for body weight gain; 4) in response to body weight gain, there is a "normalization" of the resting metabolic rate. These studies are the first showing that a "thrifty" metabolic rate can play a role in the development of obesity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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