Vital Energetics: A Study in Comparative Basal Metabolism

By Francis G. Benedict | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS

The facts established in this research are very clearly enunciated. First, in general the larger the animal the larger the total heat production. Secondly, as has been known for decades, the heat production is not constant per unit of weight, and thirdly, it is clearly demonstrated that the heat production is not constant per unit of surface area. As there are striking differences in the metabolism even of animals of the same weight, where calculations per unit of weight or per unit of surface area are entirely unnecessary, it is obvious that the concept of heat loss as being uniform per unit of surface area will no longer satisfy the demands of physiologists who seek the truth. Because this concept has been proved wholly inadequate, interest centers not on a supposed uniformity but upon a demonstrated variability in metabolism. Formerly a purely physical law supposedly unified the metabolism of all warm-blooded animals. Today the causes for the well-established variabilities in metabolism must be sought in studies of animals of gross differences in body make-up. Such studies may well contribute to an understanding of the variations in metabolism found in the most important species of all, that is, man, and thus may make comparative physiology serve its greatest purpose, i.e., to contribute to knowledge of man.

From the various comparisons of animals in the same species and in the same weight group, the sex difference per se is accentuated as perhaps never before. This is notably the case with men and women and with the bovines, and there is also a hint of a sex difference in the adult pig and goat, although the data are as yet not complete enough to more than suggest this. In each case the difference in metabolism is pronounced and demands an explanation other than any possible slight differences in surface area. There is the strong presumption that the metabolic differences are wholly or at least in large part ascribable to an endocrine factor. Perhaps one of the most challenging questions, however, in this survey is, if the sex difference is so pronounced with humans and bovines and apparently exists with swine and goats, why is it not emphasized with other species, such as the cock and the hen, the ram and the ewe, and why is it apparently absent in the large primate, the chimpanzee? The study can not be considered closed.

With different species in the same weight group there are great differences in the total heat production, and in the metabolism expressed per kilogram and per square meter. Why do these differences exist? This is a most challenging question. The prevailing views, in so far as they have been thus far only too feebly expressed, suggest a number of factors, such as the proportion of active protoplasmic tissue with emphasis upon the metabolically inert material, notably the wool of sheep, the horns of animals, the shell of the tortoise, the intestinal ballast of the ruminant, and in some animals the large amount of body fat. The comparisons that have heretofore been made have been confined to expressions of the metabolism

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