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Diet induced thermogenesis
Klaas R Westerterp*
Address: Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
Email: Klaas R Westerterp* - [email protected]
* Corresponding author
Published: 18 August 2004 Received: 14 July 2004
Accepted: 18 August 2004
Nutrition & Metabolism 2004, 1:5 doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-5
This article is available from: http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/5
© 2004 Westerterp; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Objective: Daily energy expenditure consists of three components: basal metabolic rate, diet-
induced thermogenesis and the energy cost of physical activity. Here, data on diet-induced
thermogenesis are reviewed in relation to measuring conditions and characteristics of the diet.
Methods: Measuring conditions include nutritional status of the subject, physical activity and
duration of the observation. Diet characteristics are energy content and macronutrient
Results: Most studies measure diet-induced thermogenesis as the increase in energy expenditure
above basal metabolic rate. Generally, the hierarchy in macronutrient oxidation in the postprandial
state is reflected similarly in diet-induced thermogenesis, with the sequence alcohol, protein,
carbohydrate, and fat. A mixed diet consumed at energy balance results in a diet induced energy
expenditure of 5 to 15 % of daily energy expenditure. Values are higher at a relatively high protein
and alcohol consumption and lower at a high fat consumption. Protein induced thermogenesis has
an important effect on satiety.
In conclusion, the main determinants of diet-induced thermogenesis are the energy content and the
protein- and alcohol fraction of the diet. Protein plays a key role in body weight regulation through
satiety related to diet-induced thermogenesis.
Introduction subjects who were obese with those who were lean. Of 29
Diet induced thermogenesis (DIT) can be defined as the studies, in which the subjects with obesity had a signifi-
increase in energy expenditure above basal fasting level cantly higher body mass index compared with the lean
divided by the energy content of the food ingested and is individuals, and the two groups were well matched for
commonly expressed as a percentage. It is, with basal met- age, 22 studies reported a significantly lower DIT in the
abolic rate and activity induced thermogenesis, one of the subjects with obesity. Granata and Brandon [2] suggested
three components of daily energy expenditure. Although the theory that DIT is reduced in obesity appears to be
DIT is the smallest component, it could play a role in the attractive and plausible, yet discrepant findings persist in
development and/or maintenance of obesity. De Jonge the literature and research has uncovered numerous flaws
and Bray [1] evaluated 49 studies that compared DIT in
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and concerns regarding the methods used to measure and adjusted for the variability of spontaneous activity and
calculate DIT. basal metabolic rate; and 3) as the difference in 24-h
energy expenditure adjusted for the variability of sponta-
Methodological issues include: was the baseline appropri- neous activity and basal metabolic rate.
ate, what was the energy content and nutrient composi-
tion of the test food consumed, what was the duration of Studies on DIT were selected from Medline. Studies were
the postprandial measurement period, and what was the selected when information was presented on energy
error associated with the calculation of DIT from the intake, diet composition with respect to carbohydrate,
measured energy expenditure. Weststrate et al [3] investi- protein fat and alcohol of the test food, duration of the
gated whether repeated measurements varied with time of postprandial measurement, and DIT.
day and found no significant diurnal variation in DIT. The
postprandial rise in energy expenditure lasts for several Results
hours and is often regarded as completely terminated at Reported intra-individual variability in DIT, determined
approximately 10 hours after the last meal but there is still with ventilated-hood systems, is 6 to 30% [7,8]. Reported
an argument as to when the post absorptive state is within-subject variability in DIT, determined with a respi-
reached. Reed and Hill [4] analyzed 131 DIT tests from a ration chamber, is 43 to 48% [5,9]. The figures for the res-
wide range of subjects ingesting meals of varying sizes and piration chamber measurements are for the 24-h DIT
composition. Each test lasted 6 h. They concluded that calculation as described above under method 3. Method
DIT is a response lasting more than 6 h, especially in 2, daytime DIT calculation, resulted in an intra-individual
obese subjects. Many methodological problems in the variability of 125% [5].
measurement of DIT like the choice of meal size and the
length of the measurement interval can be circumvented The mean pattern of DIT throughout the day is presented
by measuring DIT over 24 h in a respiration chamber in figure 1. Data are from a study where DIT was calcu-
[5,6]. Then, activity associated energy expenditure is sub- lated by plotting the residual of the individual relation-
tracted from 24 h energy expenditure leaving basal meta- ship between energy expenditure and physical activity in
bolic rate and DIT. time, as measured over 30-min intervals from a 24-h
observation in a respiration chamber [10]. Subjects were
Here, the focus is on DIT as a function of the energy con- 17 females and 20 males. The level of resting metabolic
tent and nutrient composition of the test food consumed rate after waking up in the morning, and directly before
and the duration of the postprandial measurement period the first meal, was defined as basal metabolic rate. Resting
in adult subjects with a normal bodyweight. The review is metabolic rate did not return to basal metabolic rate
based on literature published over the last 15 years. before lunch at 4 h after breakfast, or before dinner at 5 h
after lunch. Overnight, basal metabolic rate was reached
Methods at 8 h after dinner consumption.
The experimental design of most studies on DIT is a meas-
urement of resting energy expenditure before and after a Fifteen studies on DIT with information on energy intake,
test meal, with a ventilated hood system. The observation on diet composition and on the postprandial measure-
is started after an overnight fast, where subjects are ment period were selected from literature (Table 1). Five
refrained from eating after the last meal at 20.00 h at the studies compared DIT, as measured with the same proto-
latest. Thus, with observations starting between 08.00 and col in the same subjects, for two or more diets with a dif-
09.00 h the next morning, the fasting interval is at least 12 ferent composition. For alcohol, there was a tendency for
h. Postprandial measurements are made for several hours an increased DIT, from 7.2 to 8.6 % of the energy content
where subjects have to remain stationery, most often in a of the meal, when 22% of the energy content of a meal
supine position, for the duration of the measurements. In was exchanged for an alcoholic aperitif [11]. In a second
some studies, measurements are 30 min with 15 min study, with a similar energy exchange with alcohol, there
intervals allowing i.e. for sanitary activities. was a significant increase in DIT, from 7.1 to 9.0 % of the
energy content of the meal [12]. For protein, there was a
The use of a respiration chamber to measure DIT has the tendency for and increased DIT, from 7.1 to 8.3% when
advantage of reproducing more physiological conditions 20 en% of the meal was exchanged with protein [12]. In a
over a longer period of time while regular meals are con- second study, with a similar energy exchange with pro-
sumed throughout the day [5,6]. The DIT, as observed in tein, there was a significant increase in DIT, from 10.5 to
a respiration chamber over 24 h has been evaluated in dif- 14.6 % of the energy content of the meal [6]. For carbohy-
ferent ways: 1) as the difference in 24-h energy expendi- drate and fat, one study showed no effect [12], one study
ture between a day in the fed state and a day in the fasted showed an increase after the exchange of 65 en% fat for
state; 2) as the difference in daytime energy expenditure carbohydrate [13], and one study showed the opposite, a
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of the food is a determinant of DIT. The most common
way to express DIT is derived from this phenomenon, the
difference between energy expenditure after food
consumption and basal energy expenditure, divided by
the rate of nutrient energy administration [16].
Theoretically, based on the amount of ATP required for
the initial steps of metabolism and storage, the DIT is dif-
ferent for each nutrient. Reported DIT values for separate
nutrients are 0 to 3% for fat, 5 to 10% for carbohydrate,
20 to 30% for protein [16], and 10 to 30% for alcohol [6].
In healthy subjects with a mixed diet, DIT represents
about 10% of the total amount of energy ingested over 24
h. When a subject is in energy balance, where intake
equals expenditure, DIT is 10% of daily energy
Figure calculated by plotting the residual from individual
in time, as in a respiration expenditure and the throughout
relationship between energy chamber
the mean measured over 30-min intervals of physical activity
Theday, 1 pattern of diet induced thermogenesis a 24-h
The mean pattern of diet induced thermogenesis throughout Of the studies presented in table 1, most reported a DIT
the day, calculated by plotting the residual of the individual value below 10% of the energy content of the food
relationship between energy expenditure and physical activity ingested. The studies reporting a DIT value below 10%
in time, as measured over 30-min intervals from a 24-h measured DIT as the increase in energy expenditure above
observation in a respiration chamber. Subjects were 17 basal fasting level over an interval of 4 to 5.5 h after the
females and 20 males [10]: -----, level of basal metabolic rate; meal. The studies with a higher value included a study
arrows, meal times.
with pure alcohol consumption and the studies where
DIT was measured over 24 h in a respiration chamber. In
the respiration chamber studies, DIT values were calcu-
lated as the increase in energy expenditure above sleeping
metabolic rate while the other studies reported DIT as the
decrease after the exchange of 28 en% fat for carbohydrate increase in energy expenditure above basal metabolic rate.
[14]. Basal metabolic rate is about 5% higher than sleeping
metabolic rate [17]. After correction of the DIT values
For a comparison of DIT between studies as a function of based on sleeping metabolic rate to the increase in energy
the nutrient composition of the test food consumed, the expenditure above basal metabolic rate, the chamber val-
energy content of the test food was divided by the length ues are close to the values of 10% of daily energy intake.
of the measurement interval after food consumption and
expressed in MJ/h. Only three of the 22 studies presented The higher DIT value of alcohol and protein compared
in table 1 included alcohol as a nutrient and were with carbohydrate and fat has implications for the effect
excluded. In a regression analysis of the remaining 19 of these nutrients on energy balance. However, the main
studies, the protein fraction of the food came out as signif- effect on energy balance does not seem to be primarily
icant determinant of DIT. An increase in the protein frac- linked to the lower bioavailability of alcohol-and protein
tion of one % resulted in an increase of DIT with 0.22 ± energy than that of fat and carbohydrate. Alcohol energy
0.42 % (p < 0.05). is largely additive to the normal diet but does not seem to
affect energy balance positively [18]. Protein plays a key
Discussion role in food intake regulation through satiety related to
The main determinant of DIT is the energy content of the DIT [19].
food, followed by the protein fraction of the food. The
thermic effect of alcohol is similar to the thermic effect of Alcohol forms a significant component of many diets and
protein. it supplements rather than displaces daily energy intake.
Alcohol consumption as an aperitif has even been shown
Diet induced thermogenesis is related to the stimulation to result in a higher subsequent intake with no intake
of energy-requiring processes during the post-prandial compensation afterwards [20]. Yet, alcohol intake does
period. The intestinal absorption of nutrients, the initial not systematically increase body weight. In a recent study,
steps of their metabolism and the storage of the absorbed it was shown that subjects with higher alcohol consump-
but not immediately oxidized nutrients [15]. As such, the tion are habitually more active [21]. This may be one
amount of food ingested quantified as the energy content
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Table 1: Diet composition, expressed as the energy contribution of carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol (en% C/P/F/A) of food intake,
and diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), measured as the increase in energy expenditure above basal fasting level over the presented
time interval and expressed as a percentage of the energy content of the food ingested (% intake).
Reference subjects (n) diet (en% C/P/F/A) intake (MJ) time (h) DIT (% intake)
[3] 10 57/10/33/0 1.9 4 7.1
[11] 12 45/10/45/0 2.5 4 7.2
12 35/8/35/22 2.5 4 8.6
[24] 6 0/0/0/100 0.9 4 17.1
[5] 471 50/20/30/0 9.4 24 18
[25] 6 73/11/16/0 2.8 4 4.2
[26] 6 65/10/25/0 2.5 5 6.5
[13] 18 80/18/2/0 2.2 4 4.0a
18 15/18/67/0 2.2 4 5.0b
[27] 12 45/15/40/0 3.1 5.5 8.3
[6] 8 30/10/60/0 8.9 24 10.5a
8 60/30/10/0 8.9 24 14.6b
[28] 12 45/15/40/0 3.6 5.5 7.1
[29] 24 62/27/11/0 3.8 5 8.1
[14] 12 40/12/48/0 2.5 5 4.3a
12 68/12/20/0 2.5 5 6.5b
[30] 14 42/15/43/0 2.5 5 5.8
[31] 13 80/17/3/0 3.2 4 5.2
[12] 19 37/32/31/0 2.8 5 8.3
19 65/12/24/0 2.8 5 7.1a
19 24/12/65/0 2.8 5 7.1a
19 43/12/24/23 2.8 5 9.0b
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