1. Resting energy expenditure was measured, by indirect calorimetry, in 12 patients with Parkinson's disease and in eight healthy age-matched control subjects. In the patients with Parkinson's disease measurements were made in both the untreated state and after an injection of the dopamine agonist apomorphine (treated state). In each state muscle rigidity was recorded.
2. Resting energy expenditure was higher in patients with Parkinson's disease in both the treated and untreated states than in the control subjects. Of the patients with Parkinson's disease, seven showed no difference in resting energy expenditure between the two treatment states, whereas four showed markedly increased resting energy expenditure in the untreated state. The change in resting energy expenditure in the untreated state, as compared with the treated state, was significantly related to the development of muscle rigidity in the untreated state.
3. In Parkinson's disease, even in optimally treated patients, resting energy expenditure is raised and this may contribute to the weight loss seen in this disease. Severe muscle rigidity occurring during untreated periods results in a further increase in resting energy expenditure.