Racial differences in metabolic predictors of obesity among postmenopausal women

Barbara J. Nicklas, Dora M. Berman, Dawn C. Davis, C. Lynne Dobrovolny, Karen E. Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


Objective: This study determined whether there are racial differences in resting metabolic rate (RMR), fat oxidation, and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) in obese [body mass index (BMI = 34±2 kg/m2)], postmenopausal (58±2 years) women. Research Methods and Procedures: Twenty black and 20 white women were matched for fat mass and lean mass (LM), as determined by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. RMR and fat oxidation were measured by indirect calorimetry in the early morning after a 12-hour fast using the ventilated hood technique. VO2max was measured on a treadmill during a progressive exercise test to voluntary exhaustion. Results: RMR, adjusted for differences in LM, was 5% higher in white than black women (1566±27 and 1490±26 kcal/day, respectively; p<0.05); and fat oxidation rate was 17% higher in white than black women (87±4 and 72±3 g/day, respectively; p<0.01). VO2max (L/minute) was 150 mL per minute (8%) higher (p<0.05) in white than black women. VO2max correlated with LM in black (r=0.44, p = 0.05) and white (r=0.53, p<0.05) women, but the intercept of the regression line was higher in white than black women (p<0.05), with no significant difference in slopes. In a multiple regression model including race, body weight, LM, and age, LM was the only independent predictor of RMR (r2 = 0.46, p<0.0001), whereas race was the only independent predictor of fat oxidation (r2 = 0.18, p<0.05). The best predictors of VO2max were LM (r2 = 0.22, p<0.05) and race (cumulative r2 = 0.30, p<0.05). Discussion: These results show there are racial differences in metabolic predictors of obesity. Determination of whether these ethnic differences lead to, or are an effect of, obesity status or other lifestyle factors requires further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-468
Number of pages6
JournalObesity Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999
Externally publishedYes



  • Fat oxidation
  • Race
  • Resting metabolic rate
  • VOmax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Endocrinology
  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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