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J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Dec;13(6):569-74.

Body fat distribution and energy metabolism in obese men and women.

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



Upper body obesity seems to be associated with a better prognosis for weight loss than does lower body obesity. However, the impact of body fat distribution on energy metabolism is not clear.


One hundred fifteen non-diabetic obese Caucasians (64 males and 51 females) and 108 Caucasian lean controls (82 males and 26 females) were studied.


Body composition was assessed by hydrodensitometry and body fat distribution was estimated by the waist-to-thigh circumference ratio (W/T). Values of 24-hour energy expenditure (24h-EE), basal metabolic rate (BMR), sleeping metabolic rate (SMR) and respiratory quotient (RQ) were measured in a respiration chamber.


BMR, adjusted for differences in fat-free mass, fat mass, age and sex, correlated with W/T in obese males (r = 0.40; p < 0.01), but not in obese females. Obese male subjects with upper body obesity had BMR significantly higher than those with lower body obesity (2189 +/- 268 vs 1974 +/- 141 kcal/day; p < 0.01), independently of differences in fat-free mass, fat mass and age. No correlations were found between W/T and adjusted 24h-EE, SMR or RQ in all examined groups.


These findings indicate that in obese males, upper body obesity is associated with increased metabolic rate, possibly related to higher levels of lipid turnover in visceral fat.

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