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The majority of the resting energy expenditure can be explained by the energy needs of a few highly metabolic organs, making up a small percentage of the body by weight. The relationship of the specific size, individual metabolism, and proportional contribution to the actual body weight and total energy expenditure for each of these organs is a dynamic process throughout growth and development, the onset of disease, and changes in nutritional status. Defining the energy needs of the individual tissues and organ systems immeasurably enhances our understanding of the body's response to these clinical processes, which otherwise could not easily be evaluated by focusing solely on total energy expenditure, fat-free mass, nitrogen imbalance, or actual body weight. Recently reported studies have served mainly to reinforce concepts described previously, and clarify some areas of controversy.