Energy metabolism in humans at a lowered ambient temperature

M.S. Westerterp-Plantenga*, W.D. van Marken Lichtenbelt, H. Strobbe, P. Schrauwen

*Corresponding author for this work

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

OBJECTIVE: Assessment of the effect of a lowered ambient temperature, ie 16 degrees C (61 degrees F), compared to 22 degrees C (72 degrees F), on energy intake (EI), energy expenditure (EE) and respiratory quotient (RQ) in men. DESIGN: Randomized within-subject design in which subjects stayed in a respiration chamber three times for 60 h each, once at 22 degrees C, and twice at 16 degrees C, wearing standardized clothing, executing a standardized daily activities protocol, and were fed in energy balance (EBI): no significant difference between EE and EI over 24 h). During the last 24 h at 22 degrees C, and once during the last 24 h at 16 degrees C, they were fed ad libitum. SUBJECTS: Nine dietary unrestrained male subjects (ages 24+/-5 y, body mass index (BMI) 22.7+/-2.1 kg/m(2), body weight 76.2+/-9.4 kg, height 1.83+/-0.06 m, 18+/-5% body fat). RESULTS: At 16 degrees C (EB), EE (total 24 h EE) was increased to 12.9+/-2.0 MJ/day as compared to 12.2+/-2.2 MJ/day at 22 degrees C (P<0.01). The increase was due to increases in sleeping metabolic rate (SMR; the lowest EE during three consecutive hours with hardly any movements as indicated by radar): 7.6+/-0.7 vs 7.2+/-0.7 MJ/day (P<0.05) and diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT; EE-SMR, when activity induced energy expenditure as indicated by radar=0): 1.7+/-0.4 vs 1.0+/-0.4 MJ/day (P<0.01). Physical activity level (PAL; EE/SMR) was 1.63-1.68. At 16 degrees C compared to at 22 degrees C, rectal, proximal and distal skin temperatures had decreased (P<0.01). RQ was not different between the two ambient temperature situations. During ad libitum feeding, subjects overate by 32+/-12% (at 22 degrees C) and by 34+/-14% (at 16 degrees C). Under these circumstances, the decrease of rectal temperature at 16 degrees C was attenuated, and inversely related to percentage overeating (r(2)=0.7; P<0.01). CONCLUSION: We conclude that at 16 degrees C, compared to 22 degrees C, energy metabolism was increased, due to increases in SMR and DIT. Overeating under ad libitum circumstances at 16 degrees C attenuated the decrease in rectal core body temperature.

Publication Types:
Clinical Trial
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-296
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


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