1. The metabolic response of lean and obese women to caffeine was studied to see if caffeine could be used to demonstrate the subnormal thermogenesis in obesity previously shown after standard meals or intravenous infusions of noradrenaline. 2. The rise in resting metabolic rate with caffeine was similar in the lean and obese groups and β-adrenoceptor blockade did not reduce the increment in metabolic rate in either group. These responses did not, therefore, correspond with the other subnormal thermogenic responses of the constitutionally obese. 3. In a post-obese group, i.e. previously obese women who were now of normal weight, there was a reduced response of the resting metabolic rate to caffeine. 4. Monitoring plasma substrate concentrations showed that the change in oxygen uptake corresponded to changes in plasma free fatty acids, so that in adults the metabolic effects of caffeine seem to be mediated by increases in adipocyte lipolysis. This effect seems to be mainly independent of the adrenergic system.
1. The thermogenic response and changes in plasma substrates and hormones were tested after a liquid meal in lean, obese and formerly obese women. 2. Subjects with a family history of obesity tested either while obese or after slimming to a normal weight had a thermogenic response, which was only half that of the lean group. 3. The immediate response in plasma glucose and insulin was greater in the lean subjects, but the sustained changes in circulating substrates did not differ in the three groups. Thyroidal hormone concentrations did not alter postprandially: venous noradrenaline levels rose in the obese groups only. 4. The differences in postprandial thermogenesis at rest would reduce the energy requirements of subjects with familial obesity, but they still had a metabolic rate estimated to be nearly 1MJ (240 kcal)/day in excess of the lean group so additional thermogenic defects must exist for familial obesity to be explained solely on a metabolic basis.