Daily Archives: April 2, 2008

The Dynamics of Human Body Weight Change

I don’t have time to really do this paper justice, but I wanted you to know about it. It’s at PLoS, and therefore you don’t have to be special to read it free.

Understanding the dynamics of human body weight change has important consequences for conditions such as obesity, starvation, and wasting syndromes. Changes of body weight are known to result from imbalances between the energy derived from food and the energy expended to maintain life and perform physical work. However, quantifying this relationship has proved difficult, in part because the body is composed of multiple components and weight change results from alterations of body composition (i.e., fat versus lean mass). Here, we show that mathematical modeling can provide a general description of how body weight will change over time by tracking the flux balances of the macronutrients fat, protein, and carbohydrates. For a fixed food intake rate and physical activity level, the body weight and composition will approach steady state. However, the steady state can correspond to a unique body weight or a continuum of body weights that are all consistent with the same food intake and energy expenditure rates. Interestingly, existing experimental data on human body weight dynamics cannot distinguish between these two possibilities. We propose experiments that could resolve this issue and use computer simulations to demonstrate how such experiments could be performed.

Chow CC, Hall KD (2008) The Dynamics of Human Body Weight Change. PLoS Comput Biol 4(3): e1000045. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000045