Objective: Populations in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the development of obesity in the period of rapid transition to a more modernized lifestyle. We sought to determine the relationship between activity energy expenditure (AEE), adiposity and weight change in an adult population
undergoing rapid socio-economic transition.
Methods: Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) was measured using the doubly labelled water method, resting energy expenditure (REE) using indirect calorimetry and AEE calculated as the difference between TDEE and REE, in adults from a working class community in Spanish Town, Jamaica. During six years of follow-up, weight was measured between one and four times. Mixed effects regression modelling was used to test for association between components of the energy budget and weight change.
Results: Men (n = 17) weighed more but women (n = 18), had significantly more body fat, 38.5% vs 24.5%, respectively (p < 0.01). Men had higher levels of EE, particularly AEE after adjustment for body weight, 66.3 versus 46.4 kJ/kg.d for men and women, respectively (p < 0.001). At baseline, adjusted AEE was inversely associated with body fat in men and women, r = -0.46 and r = -0.48, respectively (p < 0.05). Mean rate of weight change was +1.1 and +1.2 kg/year for men and women, respectively. No component of EE, ie TDEE, REE or AEE, significantly predicted weight change in this small sample.
Conclusions: These results suggest an important role for AEE in maintaining low levels of adiposity. The lack of association between EE and weight change, however, suggests populations in transition are at risk of obesity from environmental factors (eg dietary) other than simply declining physical activity levels.