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close this bookActivity, Energy Expenditure and Energy Requirements of Infants and Children (International Dietary Energy Consultative Group - IDECG, 1989, 412 pages)
close this folderBasal metabolism of infants
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentAbstract
View the document1. Historical work
View the document2. Basal metabolism defined
View the document3. Factors which may influence basal metabolism
View the document4. Normative standards
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentReferences
View the documentDiscussion (summarized by B. Schürch)

1. Historical work

The first investigation published on the gaseous metabolism of infants was conducted by FORSTER (1877) in Munich. The carbon dioxide production of 2 infants, one 14 and one 16 days of age, was measured in an open-circuit calorimeter. The apparatus was later used by RUBNER and HEUBNER (1898) in their classic studies of daily energy requirements of normal and atrophic infants. RUBNER (1883) pioneered studies on substrate oxidation and formalized the body surface area law, i.e., the theory that the metabolic rate per unit surface area is either the same for large and small animals or at least independent of body size. French scientists explored the effects of body surface area (RICHET, 1885) and of environmental and body temperatures on heat production (LANGLOIS, 1887). Infant metabolism (VO2 and VCO2) was studied simultaneously in Italy by MENSI (1894) and POPPI (1900), and in Czechoslovakia by SCHERER (1896) and BABAK (1901, 1902) using closed circuit calorimetry. A remarkable series of experiments was conducted by SCHLOSSMANN, OPPENHEIMER, and MURSCHHAUSER (1908) in Düsseldorf. These scientists recognized the importance of muscular repose and food intake in the measurement of basal metabolism.

In America, Atwater and Lusk initiated several investigations and HOWLAND (1911) made an important contribution by demonstrating the equivalence of direct and indirect calorimetry in infants. In his experiments the difference between the two methods ranged from -1% to 3%. A series of investigations of newborn, premature, and full-term infants was published by BENEDICT and TALBOT between 1914 and 1938. At Massachusetts General Hospital, they studied 37 infants, aged 1 day to 17 months, of varying nutritional states (BENEDICT and TALBOT, 1914).

Benedict challenged Rubner's surface law; he concluded that basal metabolism was not determined by body weight or body surface area, but by the active mass of protoplasmic tissue. In a subsequent series of studies, Benedict examined the basal metabolism of 105 newborn infants (BENEDICT and TALBOT, 1915). Minimum heat production averaged 42 kcal/kg/d for the newborn infants. In their most extensive investigation, BENEDICT and TALBOT (1921) studied the minimal heat production of 73 infants from 8 days to 25 months. MURLIN and HOOBLER (1915) measured the heat production of 10 infants, aged 2 to 12 months; it averaged 60 kcal/kg/d and was highest in atrophic and underweight children and lowest in overweight children. Levine studied basal metabolism and total energy requirements of normal and underweight infants with emphasis on the influence of food, crying and muscular activity (LEVINE et al., 1927; LEVINE, WILSON and GOTTSCHALL, 1928; LEVINE and MARPLES, 1931). CLAGETT and HATHAWAY (1941) conducted a longitudinal study of 8 infants between 5 and 10 months of age.