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Energy-sparing adaptations in human pregnancy assessed by whole-body calorimetry

  • A. M. Prentice (a1), G. R. Goldberg (a1), H. L. Davies (a1), P. R. Murgatroyd (a1) and W. Scott (a1)...

Abstract

The hypothesis that the energy cost of human pregnancy can be minimized by energy-sparing metabolic adaptations was tested using serial 24 h whole-body calorimetry. Eight healthy, well-nourished women were studied prepregnant and at 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 weeks gestation. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) showed highly characteristic changes within each subject and large inter-individual differences (F 3.5, P < 0.01). Some subjects showed a highly significant depression of metabolism up to 24 weeks gestation in support of the initial hypothesis. At 36 weeks BMR ranged from +8.6 to +35.4% relative to the prepregnant baseline. This wide variability was not explained by differences in the amount of lean tissue gained. Women displaying the energy-sparing suppression of BMR tended to be thin, suggesting that changes in metabolism may be responsive to initial energy status (ΔBMR ν. prepregnant body fat: r 0.84, P < 0.005). Changes in 24 h energy expenditure closely paralleled changes in BMR (r 0.98, P < 0.001), since the energy cost of minor voluntary activity and thermogenesis remained very constant within each individual. Pregnancy decreased the net cost of weight-dependent and weight-independent standard exercises when expressed per kg body-weight: stepping – 10 (sd 2)%, P < 0.001 at 18–36 weeks, cycling - 26 (sd 7)%, P < 0.01 at 12–36 weeks. The average integrated maintenance costs of pregnancy matched previous group estimates from well-nourished women, but individual estimates ranged from - 16 to + 276 MJ (coefficient of variation 93%). This high level of variability has important implications for the prescription of incremental energy intakes during pregnancy. It may also have had evolutionary significance.

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References

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Energy-sparing adaptations in human pregnancy assessed by whole-body calorimetry

  • A. M. Prentice (a1), G. R. Goldberg (a1), H. L. Davies (a1), P. R. Murgatroyd (a1) and W. Scott (a1)...

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