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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Dec;83(12):4289-97.

Energy and water metabolism, body composition, and hormonal changes induced by 42 days of enforced inactivity and simulated weightlessness.

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Laboratoire de Physiologie de l'Environnement, Faculté de Médecine Lyon Grange-Blanche, France.


Inactivity causes profound deleterious changes. We investigated in eight healthy men the impact of a 42-day head-down bed rest (HDBR) on energy and water metabolism and their interrelationships with body composition (BC) and catabolic and anabolic hormones. Total energy expenditure (TEE), total body water, water turnover, and metabolic water formation were assessed by the doubly labeled water method 15 days before and for the last 15 days of HDBR. Resting energy expenditure was determined by indirect calorimetry, and BC was determined by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Urinary excretion of cortisol, GH, normetanephrine, metanephrine, urea, and creatinine were measured daily. HDBR resulted in significant reductions in body weight (2%), total body water (5%), metabolic water (17%), and lean body mass (LBM; 4%), but fat mass and water turnover did not change. Segmental BC showed a decreased LBM in legs and trunk, whereas fat mass increased, no significant changes were noted in the arms. The hydration of LBM was unchanged. TEE and energy intake decreased significantly (20% and 13%), whereas resting energy expenditure was maintained. Expenditure for physical activity dropped by 39%. Subjects were in energy balance during HDBR, whereas it was negative during the control period (-1.5 MJ/day). There were decreases in urinary normetanephrine (23%) and metanephrine (23%), but urinary cortisol (28%; weeks 2 and 3), GH (75%; weeks 2-4), and urea (15%; weeks 3 and 4) increased. It was concluded that during prolonged HDBR no relevant modifications in water metabolism were triggered. BC changes occurred in the nonexercised body segments, and the reduction in TEE was due to inactivity, not to LBM loss. Moreover, body weight alone does not accurately reflect the subject's energy state, and energy balance alone could not explain the body weight loss, which involves a transient metabolic stress.

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