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      Basal metabolic rate studies in humans: measurement and development of new equations

      Public Health Nutrition

      CABI Publishing

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          To facilitate the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization/United Nations University Joint (FAO/WHO/UNU) Expert Consultation on Energy and Protein Requirements which met in Rome in 1981, Schofield et al. reviewed the literature and produced predictive equations for both sexes for the following ages: 0–3, 3–10, 10–18, 18–30, 30–60 and >60 years. These formed the basis for the equations used in 1985 FAO/WHO/UNU document, Energy and Protein Requirements.

          While Schofield's analysis has served a significant role in re-establishing the importance of using basal metabolic rate (BMR) to predict human energy requirements, recent workers have subsequently queried the universal validity and application of these equations. A survey of the most recent studies (1980–2000) in BMR suggests that in most cases the current FAO/WHO/UNU predictive equations overestimate BMR in many communities. The FAO/WHO/UNU equations to predict BMR were developed using a database that contained a disproportionate number – 3388 out of 7173 (47%) – of Italian subjects. The Schofield database contained relatively few subjects from the tropical region.

          The objective here is to review the historical development in the measurement and application of BMR and to critically review the Schofield et al. BMR database presenting a series of new equations to predict BMR.


          This division, while arbitrary, will enable readers who wish to omit the historical review of BMR to concentrate on the evolution of the new BMR equations.


          BMR data collected from published and measured values.


          A series of new equations (Oxford equations) have been developed using a data set of 10 552 BMR values that (1) excluded all the Italian subjects and (2) included a much larger number (4018) of people from the tropics.


          In general, the Oxford equations tend to produce lower BMR values than the current FAO/WHO/UNU equations in 18–30 and 30–60 year old males and in all females over 18 years of age.


          This is an opportune moment to re-examine the role and place of BMR measurements in estimating total energy requirements today. The Oxford equations' future use and application will surely depend on their ability to predict more accurately the BMR in contemporary populations.

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          Most cited references 46

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          The respiratory exchange of animals and man.

           August Krogh (1916)
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            Energy expenditure in obese and nonobese adolescents.

            We measured body composition, basal metabolic rate (BMR), and total energy expenditure in 28 nonobese and 35 obese adolescents aged 12-18 y using indirect calorimetry and the doubly labeled water method. BMR was highly correlated with fat-free mass in both the nonobese and obese groups (r = 0.77 and 0.84, respectively). BMR adjusted for fat-free mass was significantly greater in males than females and in the obese subjects. Total energy expenditure was significantly greater in the obese than nonobese cohort but ratios of total energy expenditure/BMR were not significantly different in the two groups (1.79 +/- 0.2 versus 1.68 +/- 0.19, nonobese and obese males and 1.69 +/- 0.28 versus 1.74 +/- 0.19 nonobese and obese females, respectively). These data indicate that BMR and total energy expenditure are not reduced in the already obese adolescent. Therefore, reduced energy expenditure cannot be responsible for the maintenance of obesity in adolescents.
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              Human energy requirements: overestimation by widely used prediction equation.

              Basal energy expenditure accounts for a large component of energy losses, and a clinical estimate of this form of thermogenesis is usually derived from a prediction equation. The most widely used prediction equation was developed in 1919 by Harris and Benedict. The energy requirements of healthy and diseased individuals are often estimated from application of this formula. Using a direct gradient-layer calorimeter and two different indirect calorimeters, our two centers found that the Harris-Benedict equation overestimated basal energy requirements by 10 to 15% (X +/- SD, 12.3 +/- 11%) in 201 studies of healthy men and women. These results raise questions regarding the accuracy of predicting an individual's energy requirements.

                Author and article information

                Public Health Nutrition
                Public Health Nutr.
                CABI Publishing
                October 2005
                January 02 2007
                October 2005
                : 8
                : 7a
                : 1133-1152
                © 2005


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