Total daily energy expenditure has declined over the past three decades due to declining basal expenditure, not reduced activity expenditure

John R Speakman* (Corresponding Author), Jasper M A de Jong, Srishti Sinha, Klaas R Westerterp* (Corresponding Author), Yosuke Yamada* (Corresponding Author), Hiroyuki Sagayama* (Corresponding Author), Philip N Ainslie, Liam J Anderson, Lenore Arab, Kweku Bedu-Addo, Stephane Blanc, Alberto G Bonomi, Pascal Bovet, Soren Brage, Maciej S Buchowski, Nancy F Butte, Stefan G J A Camps, Jamie A Cooper, Richard Cooper, Sai Krupa DasPeter S W Davies, Lara R Dugas, Ulf Ekelund, Sonja Entringer, Terrence Forrester, Barry W Fudge, Melanie Gillingham, Santu Ghosh, Annelies H Goris, Michael Gurven, Lewis G Halsey, Catherine Hambly, Hinke H Haisma, Daniel Hoffman, Sumei Hu, Annemiek M Joosen, Jennifer L Kaplan, Peter Katzmarzyk, William E Kraus, Robert F Kushner, William R Leonard, Marie Löf, Corby K Martin, Eric Matsiko, Anine C Medin, Erwin P Meijer, Marian L Neuhouser, Theresa A Nicklas, Robert M Ojiambo, Kirsi H Pietiläinen, Jacob Plange-Rhule, Guy Plasqui, Ross L Prentice, Susan B Racette, David A Raichlen, Eric Ravussin, Leanne M Redman, Susan B Roberts, Michael C Rudolph, Luis B Sardinha, Albertine J Schuit, Analiza M Silva, Eric Stice, Samuel S Urlacher, Giulio Valenti, Ludo M Van Etten, Edgar A Van Mil, Brian M Wood, Jack A Yanovski, Tsukasa Yoshida, Xueying Zhang, Alexia J Murphy-Alford, Cornelia U Loechl, Anura Kurpad, Amy H Luke, Herman Pontzer, Matthew S Rodeheffer, Jennifer Rood, Dale A Schoeller, William W Wong* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Obesity is caused by a prolonged positive energy balance1,2. Whether reduced energy expenditure stemming from reduced activity levels contributes is debated3,4. Here we show that in both sexes, total energy expenditure (TEE) adjusted for body composition and age declined since the late 1980s, while adjusted activity energy expenditure increased over time. We use the International Atomic Energy Agency Doubly Labelled Water database on energy expenditure of adults in the United States and Europe (n = 4,799) to explore patterns in total (TEE: n = 4,799), basal (BEE: n = 1,432) and physical activity energy expenditure (n = 1,432) over time. In males, adjusted BEE decreased significantly, but in females this did not reach significance. A larger dataset of basal metabolic rate (equivalent to BEE) measurements of 9,912 adults across 163 studies spanning 100 years replicates the decline in BEE in both sexes. We conclude that increasing obesity in the United States/Europe has probably not been fuelled by reduced physical activity leading to lowered TEE. We identify here a decline in adjusted BEE as a previously unrecognized factor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-588
Number of pages2
JournalNature Metabolism
Issue number4
Early online date26 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


  • Endocrine system and metabolic diseases
  • Metabolism


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