Total daily energy expenditure and elevated water turnover in a small-scale semi-nomadic pastoralist society from Northern Kenya

Amanda McGrosky, Zane S. Swanson, Rebecca Rimbach, Hilary Bethancourt, Emmanuel Ndiema, Rosemary Nzunza, David R. Braun, Asher Y. Rosinger, Herman Pontzer

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Background: Pastoralists live in challenging environments, which may be accompanied by unique activity, energy, and water requirements. Aim: Few studies have examined whether the demands of pastoralism contribute to differences in total energy expenditure (TEE) and water turnover (WT) compared to other lifestyles. Subjects and methods: Accelerometer-derived physical activity, doubly labelled water-derived TEE and WT, and anthropometric data were collected for 34 semi-nomadic Daasanach adults from three northern Kenyan communities with different levels of pastoralist activity. Daasanach TEEs and WTs were compared to those of other small-scale and industrialised populations. Results: When modelled as a function of fat-free-mass, fat-mass, age, and sex, TEE did not differ between Daasanach communities. Daasanach TEE (1564–4172 kcal/day) was not significantly correlated with activity and 91% of TEEs were within the range expected for individuals from comparison populations. Mean WT did not differ between Daasanach communities; Daasanach absolute (7.54 litres/day men; 7.46 litres/day women), mass-adjusted, and TEE-adjusted WT was higher than most populations worldwide. Conclusions: The similar mass-adjusted TEE of Daasanach and industrialised populations supports the hypothesis that habitual TEE is constrained, with physically demanding lifestyles necessitating trade-offs in energy allocation. Elevated WT in the absence of elevated TEE likely reflects a demanding active lifestyle in a hot, arid climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2310724
JournalAnnals of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Physiology
  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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