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Keywords:

  • Core temperature;
  • metabolic rate;
  • obesity;
  • thermogenesis

Summary

A substantial proportion of energy expenditure is utilized for maintenance of the ‘warm-blooded’ or homoeothermic state. In normally active humans, this compartment of energy output approximates 40% of total energy expenditure. Many mammalian species utilize regulated decreases in temperature, such as hibernation or shallow torpor, as a means of energy conservation. Inherited forms of rodent obesity (ob/ob mouse, fa/fa rat) have lower core temperatures and withstand cold poorly. Obese humans, however, have normal core temperatures. This review addresses the role of core temperature in the metabolic economy of the obese state and raises the possibility that (i) lower temperatures may contribute to the increase in metabolic efficiency that accompanies weight loss in the obese; and (ii) that lower core temperatures may have initiated weight gain in the pre-obese state and that the normal temperatures in the obese may represent metabolic compensation to restore energy balance and limit further weight gain.