Resting Energy Expenditure of Black Overweight Women in South Africa Is Lower than of White Women

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Overweight affects 65% of black South African women. Effective weight management requires accurate measurement or estimation of energy expenditure.


The study aimed to determine, among overweight women, whether measured resting energy expenditure (REE) differs between black and white participants, and the performance of REE estimation equations.


The REE of 44 black (age 39.6 ± 9.7 years, body mass index (BMI) 35.1 ± 6.2 kg/m2) and 41 white (age 38.0 ± 11.6 years, BMI 33.9 ± 7.6 kg/m2) women was measured with indirect calorimetry and estimated with equations. Body composition was assessed with multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis. Differences in REE were determined with t tests (Welch), and included adjustment for fat free mass (FFM) and BMI, and for FFM index (FFMI).


Measured REE was 585 kJ/day (95% CI 264-905; p = 0.0005) and 861 kJ/day (95% CI 499-1,221; p < 0.0001) lower in black than in white women when adjusted for FFM and BMI, and FFMI, respectively. Out of 14 equations, 13 underestimated REE (error range 2,261 ± 727 kJ/day (Bernstein equation, white women) to 8 ± 782 kJ/day (BMI equation, black women)).


Black overweight women have significantly lower REE than their white counterparts. No tested estimation equation provided satisfactory results across race/ethnicity. REE measurements or development of overweight- or race/ethnicity-specific estimation equations are recommended.

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