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Calorimetric chambers

Calorimetric chambers enable the accurate evaluation of energy expenditure and the use of energy substrates (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) by an individual living under conditions that allow precise control of his physical activity and diet.

Updated on 09/13/2013
Published on 08/11/2008

Calorimetric chambers constitute an essential tool to:

  • calculate the energy balance with considerable accuracy over a 24-hour period,
  • determine the kinetics of energy expenditure during different phases of the day and night, over a 24-hour period,
  • evaluate accurately the nutritional requirements of specific populations (children, adolescents, elderly or frail patients, overweight individuals, sportsmen),
  • determine metabolic perturbations in populations at nutritional risk,
  • study and validate the thermogenic properties of nutrients, micronutrients, medicinal products for nutritional purposes, diets or nutritional formulae,
  • explore energy expenditure under normal living conditions, based notably on separate recordings of the heart rate or using accelerometry.

Research facilities

The Human Nutrition Unit in Clermont Ferrand is equipped with two, identical calorimetric chambers which enable the continuous measurement of energy expenditure in humans. These are based on the principle of open-circuit indirect calorimetry, which consists in measuring the exchanges of respiratory gases by individuals (oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide emission).

These chambers are of sufficient size (10m²) and comfort (bed, washbasin, WC, microwave oven, TV, VHS and DVD, Hi-Fi) to enable prolonged stays under normal living conditions.
They are also equipped with treadmills, exercise bikes or steppers (depending on the needs of the study) in order to simulate physical activities similar to everyday levels.
These facilities enable measurement of the kinetics of energy expenditure, heart rate and accelerometry during periods that can range from 24 hours to several days, depending on the study protocol. The mean duration of measurements is 36 hours.

We can thus determine the energy expended by an individual during sleep, meals, quiet activities or controlled exercise (such as walking or cycling).

In addition:

  • the presence of a kitchen and skilled staff (dietician and cook) in the Auvergne Human Nutrition Research Centre (CRNH) means that calibrated meals can be produced in order to control dietary intake.
  • supplementary methods are available to evaluate energy expenditure under normal living conditions (double-labelled water, heart rate recordings, accelerometry).
  • measurement systems are also available for body composition, and notably dual-X ray absorptiometry.
  • the unit benefits from expertise in the assessment of well-being and the perception of appetite.

Proposal for collaboration

INRA is seeking collaboration from the following industrial sectors:

  • agrifood (valorisation of nutritional supplements, nutritional claims, labelling),
  • nutraceutical (development of dietary supplements),
  • pharmaceutical (valorisation of medicinal products for nutritional purposes),
  • informatics and bioinformatics (medical or dietary software to analyse energy needs and physical activities),
  • technological (sport and fitness apparatus, cardiofrequencemeter to calculate energy expenditure, real-time and cumulated).

The Lipid and Energy Metabolism team in the Human Nutrition Unit benefits from the technical and scientific skills necessary to design, conduct and analyse study protocols in humans carried out using these facilities. Furthermore, the team is involved in a national network (R3C) which means it can increase its technical resources and develop multicentre studies focused on both humans and on relevant animal models (pig, mini-pig, rodents).


Unité de Nutrition Humaine, UMR1019 INRA-Université d’Auvergne
Equipe Métabolismes Lipidique et Energétique
Laboratoire de Nutrition Humaine
58 rue Montalembert, BP321
63009 Clermont-Ferrand

Christophe Montaurier, - Responsable technique
Tel : +33 (0)4 73 60 82 67 - Christophe.Montaurier@clermont.inra.fr

Béatrice Morio, - Responsable scientifique
Tel : +33(0)4 73 60 82 72 - Beatrice.Morio@clermont.inra.fr