The International Atomic Energy Agency International Doubly Labelled Water Database: Aims, Scope and Procedures

John R. Speakman*, Herman Pontzer, Jennifer Rood, Hiroyuki Sagayama, Dale A. Schoeller, Klaas R. Westerterp, William W. Wong, Yosuke Yamada, Cornelia Loechl, Alexia J. Murphy-Alford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The doubly labelled water (DLW) method is an isotope-based technique that quantifies total energy expenditure (TEE) over periods of 1-3 weeks from the differential elimination of stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen. The method was invented in the 1950s, but limited ability to measure low isotope enrichments combined with the high cost of isotopes meant it only became feasible to use in humans in the 1980s. It is still relatively expensive to use, and alone small samples are unable to tackle some of the important questions surrounding energy balance such as how have expenditures changed over time and how do expenditures differ with age, between sexes and in different environments? Summary: By combining information across studies, answers to such questions may be possible. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) DLW database was established to pool DLW data across multiple studies. It was initiated by the main labs currently using the method and is hosted by the IAEA. At present, the database contains 6,621 measures of TEE by DLW from individuals in 23 countries, along with various additional data on the study participants. Key Messages: The IAEA DLW database is a key resource enabling future studies of energy demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-118
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Nutrition and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
EventIAEA-UNICEF-WHO International Symposium on Understanding the Double Burden of Malnutrition for Effective Interventions - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 10 Dec 201813 Dec 2018


  • Energy expenditure
  • Doubly labelled water
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Food requirements

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