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Whole-body calorimetry in the study of the causes of obesity

A new suite dedicated to whole-body indirect calorimetry has been installed at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire as part of the Division of Metabolic and Vascular Health and the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes and Metabolism (WISDEM).

The £1.5million investment was supported by the Science Cities Research Alliance in which the University of Birmingham also collaborates. The metabolic suite, led by Professor Sudhesh Kumar and Dr Tom Barber, is aimed at studying the factors that influence the rate at which carbohydrates and fats are metabolised by the body either in basal states or after physiological perturbations. Using the specially built chambers, individual volunteers can be studied, while being monitored, continuously for many hours while they undertake normal daily activities, such as ingesting meals.

The researchers are particularly interested in the role of a special type of fat, termed brown fat, in the maintenance of a healthy body-weight, and the effect of overweight on the way that food is metabolised. The new calorimeter is only the second one of its kind in the UK and provides a state-of-the-art national facility that can be also be used by pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies in the development of preparations for the management of metabolic diseases.

The opening of the suite has received appreciable media coverage, including BBC News online