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

PainSci » bibliography » Speakman et al 2023
Tags: exercise, inflam-sys, self-treatment, treatment

One page on PainSci cites Speakman 2023: Science round-up: six painful science stories from 2023

PainSci commentary on Speakman 2023: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

Derek Griffin, regarding this study:

“Contrary to popular opinion, humans have not become less active in recent decades.”

People are indeed burning fewer calories these days, but probably not for the reason everyone assumes: that is, not because we move less. Speakman et al. — et many alia, there are dozens of authors — did an extremely complex analysis to show that people definitely have reduced energy expenditure, but they traced that to reduced basal metabolic rates, and not declining physical activity. Weird, right?

Something has changed in our physiology! For instance, “one of many possible explanations” is eating more saturated fats. And what happens when you burn fewer calories? You end up wearing them. “This study therefore identifies a novel potential contributor to the obesity epidemic.”

And unhealthy people have more pain. (Not that obesity is always unhealthy, but it often is.)

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

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.

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:

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