Constraint and trade-offs regulate energy expenditure during childhood

Samuel S. Urlacher, J. Josh Snodgrass, Lara R. Dugas, Lawrence S. Sugiyama, Melissa A. Liebert, Cara J. Joyce, Herman Pontzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Children’s metabolic energy expenditure is central to evolutionary and epidemiological frameworks for understanding variation in human phenotype and health. Nonetheless, the impact of a physically active lifestyle and heavy burden of infectious disease on child metabolism remains unclear. Using energetic, activity, and biomarker measures, we show that Shuar forager-horticulturalist children of Amazonian Ecuador are ~25% more physically active and, in association with immune activity, have ~20% greater resting energy expenditure than children from industrial populations. Despite these differences, Shuar children’s total daily energy expenditure, measured using doubly labeled water, is indistinguishable from industrialized counterparts. Trade-offs in energy allocation between competing physiological tasks, within a constrained energy budget, appear to shape childhood phenotypic variation (e.g., patterns of growth). These trade-offs may contribute to the lifetime obesity and metabolic health disparities that emerge during rapid economic development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaax1065
JournalScience Advances
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 18 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Constraint and trade-offs regulate energy expenditure during childhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this