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The first workshop of the International Dietary Energy Consultancy Group (IDECG) focused on the consequences of chronic energy deficiency for adult individuals and societies. It also recommended that IDECG give priority to the examination of all aspects of the relation between energy intake and physical activity in children. The second IDECG workshop was convened for this purpose.

The Committee responsible for the 1985 FAO/WHO/UNU report on energy and protein requirements defined energy requirements for adults as "the amount needed to maintain health, growth, and an appropriate level of physical activity". The 'appropriate' level of physical activity depends on a person's occupational and other activities which are part of his or her lifestyle and may be quite difficult to define. Nevertheless, the Committee maintained that a definition of energy requirements makes sense only if one specifies "what for?", i.e., an appropriate or desirable level of physical activity and energy expenditure for the particular population group under consideration.

When considering the energy requirements of infants, children and adolescents, the 1985 Committee stated: "Although, in principle, it would be desirable to determine the requirements of children in the same way as for adults, from measurements of energy expenditure, this approach involves many difficulties in practice". It concluded that the necessary information was not available to base recommendations for the energy requirements of infants and children on estimates of energy expenditure. Instead it continued to do so on the basis of information on energy intakes of infants and children growing normally.

With the development of the doubly-labelled water method and renewed interest in energy metabolism, a considerable amount of new information on children's activities and energy expenditure has become available since then. The Steering Committee of IDECG therefore thought that it would also be useful and timely to reexamine the energy requirements of infants and children from the perspective of socio-cultural influences on their energy expenditure. This led to a consideration of possible effects in the other direction, the impact of involuntary restriction of dietary intake on activity and other aspects of behavior.

IDECG is administered by the United Nations University (UNU) on behalf of the UN ACC-Subcommittee on Nutrition, and its secretariat is provided by the Nestle Foundation. Funding for the workshop was provided by UNU and for this publication by the Nestle Foundation.

We should like to thank Miss Edwina Murray and Mrs. Sandra Lee for assisting us in the organization of this workshop, Mrs. Rebecca Chamberlain for administration of finances, Mrs. Ann-Marie Favre for proof-reading and helping us prepare this publication, Mrs. Nelleke Luong-van-My and Miss Diana Schellitzer for technical assistance.

Beat Schürch
Nevin S. Scrimshaw

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