Introduction: African Americans (AA) experience higher rates of obesity and related disorders than the general U.S. population. It has been hypothesized that the increased risk of obesity among AA may be explained, in part, by lower levels of energy expenditure (EE) and lower levels of fat oxidation. However, many different measures of EE and substrate oxidation have been employed across previous studies.
Objective: The objective of this study was to compare multiple measures of EE and substrate oxidation among White (W) and AA adults. We hypothesize that AA will have lower EE and lower fat oxidation rates than W.
Methods: A sample of 12 young (ages 22 to 35 y), non-obese AA adults was recruited from the local community and pair-matched by age, sex and body mass index (BMI) to a sample of 12 W adults. Height and weight were measured and BMI was calculated (kg/m2). Total fat mass (FM) and fat free mass (FFM) were measured using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Resting EE (REE) and respiratory quotient (RQ) were measured in a fasting state using a metabolic cart; 24-hour EE, 24-h RQ, sleep EE and sleep RQ were measured in a whole room calorimeter; and free-living total daily EE (TDEE) was measured over two weeks using doubly labelled water. Physical activity level (PAL) was computed as TDEE/REE. Differences between W and AA were determined using general linear models, adjusting for FFM.
Results: The analytic sample had a mean age of 27.0 y (SD 4.3 y) and mean BMI of 22.9 kg/m2 (SD 2.9 kg/m2). There were no significant differences in age, BMI, FM or FFM between W and AA (all p>0.05). However, W had significantly higher REE (1459 vs 1305 kcal/day; p=0.001), 24-h EE (1826 versus 1737 kcal/day; p=0.02), sleep EE (1509 vs 1405 kcal/day; p=0.005); but not TDEE (2452 vs 2313 kcal/day; p=0.30) compared to AA. There were no race differences in RQ (0.83 vs 0.83; p=0.93), 24-h RQ (0.86 vs 0.88; p=0.24) or sleep RQ (0.86 vs 0.87; p=0.44). On the other hand, AA had higher PAL (1.34 vs 1.26; p=0.04) compared to W.
Conclusions: Non-obese W adults demonstrated higher REE, 24-h EE, and sleep EE compared to AA, but had similar levels of free-living TDEE. It appears as though some AA adults may compensate for lower REE by increased physical activity, which may be an effective strategy to prevent weight gain and obesity.