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Br J Nutr. 1995 Mar;73(3):337-47.

Energy intake, physical activity and body weight: a simulation model.

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Department of Human Biology, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


In adults, body mass (BM) and its components fat-free mass (FFM) and fat mass (FM) are normally regulated at a constant level. Changes in FM and FFM are dependent on energy intake (EI) and energy expenditure (EE). The body defends itself against an imbalance between EI and EE by adjusting, within limits, the one to the other. When, at a given EI or EE, energy balance cannot be reached, FM and FFM will change, eventually resulting in an energy balance at a new value. A model is described which simulates changes in FM and FFM using EI and physical activity (PA) as input variables. EI can be set at a chosen value or calculated from dietary intake with a database on the net energy of foods. PA can be set at a chosen multiple of basal metabolic rate (BMR) or calculated from the activity budget with a database on the energy cost of activities in multiples of BMR. BMR is calculated from FFM and FM and, if necessary, FFM is calculated from BM, height, sex and age, using empirical equations. The model uses existing knowledge on the adaptation of energy expenditure (EE) to an imbalance between EI and EE, and to resulting changes in FM and FFM. Mobilization and storage of energy as FM and FFM are functions of the relative size of the deficit (EI/EE) and of the body composition. The model was validated with three recent studies measuring EE at a fixed EI during an interval with energy restriction, overfeeding and exercise training respectively. Discrepancies between observed and simulated changes in energy stores were within the measurement precision of EI, EE and body composition. Thus the consequences of a change in dietary intake or a change in physical activity on body weight and body composition can be simulated.

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