Obesity Tissue: Composition, Energy Expenditure, and Energy Content in Adult Humans

Phoenix Hwaung, Anja Bosy-Westphal, Manfred J. Muller, Corinna Geisler, Moonseong Heo, Diana M. Thomas, Samantha Kennedy, Steven B. Heymsfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: Chronic positive energy balance leads to obesity, and the “excess” weight is usually described as consisting solely of adipose tissue (AT) or its two components, fat and fat-free mass (nonfat cell mass, extracellular fluid). This study aimed to clarify the nature of “obesity” tissue. Methods: A total of 333 adults had AT, skin, skeletal muscle, bone, heart, liver, kidney, spleen, brain, and residual mass measured or derived using magnetic resonance imaging and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. First, associations between these components and AT were examined by developing multiple regression models. Next, obesity-tissue composition was developed by deriving mean component mass differences between participant groups with normal weight (BMI < 25 kg/m2) and those with obesity (BMI > 29.9 kg/m2); respective resting energy expenditures and metabolizable energy and protein contents were calculated. Results: AT significantly predicted organ-tissue mass in 17 of 18 multiple regression models. In addition to AT and skeletal muscle, the following associations were found: skin, liver, and bone were main contributors to obesity-tissue composition; liver, kidneys, and heart to resting energy expenditure; and skin, liver, and bone to metabolizable energy and protein contents. A pronounced sexual dimorphism was present in all three models. Conclusions: Obesity is characterized not only by excess AT but by increases in the masses of other “companion” organs and tissues and their related metabolic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1472-1481
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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