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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 210484, 8 pages
Research Article

Assessment of Acute and Chronic Pharmacological Effects on Energy Expenditure and Macronutrient Oxidation in Humans: Responses to Ephedrine

1Clinical Unit in Cambridge, GlaxoSmithKline, ACCI, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK
2Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK
3Metabolic Pathways Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery, GlaxoSmithKline Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA

Received 17 May 2010; Accepted 6 July 2010

Academic Editor: L. Van Gaal

Copyright © 2011 Antonella Napolitano et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Evidence of active brown adipose tissue in human adults suggests that this may become a pharmacological target to induce negative energy balance. We have explored whole-body indirect calorimetry to detect the metabolic effects of thermogenic drugs through administration of ephedrine hydrochloride and have assessed ephedrine's merits as a comparator compound in the evaluation of novel thermogenic agents. Volunteers randomly given ephedrine hydrochloride 15 mg QID or placebo were studied at baseline and after 1-2 and 14-15 days of treatment. We demonstrate that overnight or 23-hour, 2% energy expenditure (EE) and 5% fat (FO) or CHO oxidation effects are detectable both acutely and over 14 days. Compared to placebo, ephedrine increased EE and FO rates overnight (EE 63 kJ day 2, EE 105 kJ, FO 190 kJ, day 14), but not over 23 h. We conclude that modest energy expenditure and fat oxidation responses to pharmacological interventions can be confidently detected by calorimetry in small groups. Ephedrine should provide reliable data against which to compare novel thermogenic compounds.