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Respiratory quotient

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Title: Respiratory quotient  
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Subject: Hypoxia (medical), Oxygen toxicity, Respiratory exchange ratio, Fraction of inspired oxygen, NFKB1
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Respiratory quotient

The respiratory quotient (or RQ or respiratory coefficient), is a dimensionless number used in calculations of basal metabolic rate (BMR) when estimated from carbon dioxide production. Such measurements, like measurements of oxygen uptake, are forms of indirect calorimetry. It is measured using Ganong's Respirometer.

It can be used in the alveolar gas equation.


The respiratory quotient (RQ) is the ratio:

RQ = CO2 eliminated / O2 consumed

where the term "eliminated" refers to carbon dioxide (CO2) removed ("eliminated") from the body.

In this calculation, the CO2 and O2 must be given in the same units, and in quantities proportional to the number of molecules. Acceptable inputs would be either moles, or else volumes of gas at standard temperature and pressure.

Many metabolized substances are compounds containing only the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Examples include fatty acids, glycerol, carbohydrates, deamination products, and ethanol. For complete oxidation of such compounds, the chemical equation is

CxHyOz + (x + y/4 - z/2) O2 ---> x CO2 + (y/2) H2O

and thus metabolism of this compound gives an RQ of x/(x + y/4 - z/2).

The range of respiratory coefficients for organisms in metabolic balance usually ranges from 1.0 (representing the value expected for pure carbohydrate oxidation) to ~0.7 (the value expected for pure fat oxidation). See

RQ value corresponds to a caloric value for each liter (L) of CO2 produced. If O2 consumption numbers are available, they are usually used directly, since they are more direct and reliable estimates of energy production.

RQ as measured includes a contribution from the energy produced from protein. However, due to the complexity of the various ways in which different amino acids can be metabolized, no single RQ can be assigned to the oxidation of protein in the diet.

Respiratory quotients of some substances

Name of the substance Respiratory Quotient
Carbohydrates 1
Proteins 0.8 - 0.9
Ketones (eucaloric) 0.73[2]
Ketones (hypocaloric) 0.66[3][4][5]
Triolein (Fat) 0.7
Oleic Acid (Fat) 0.71
Tripalmitin (Fat) 0.7
Malic acid 1.33
Tartaric acid 1.6
Oxalic acid 4.0

See also

Respiratory Exchange Ratio


  1. ^ Telugu Academi, Botany text book, 2007 Version
  2. ^ Mosek, Amnon; Natour, Haitham; Neufeld, Miri Y.; Shiff, Yaffa; Vaisman, Nachum (2009). "Ketogenic diet treatment in adults with refractory epilepsy: A prospective pilot study". Seizure 18 (1): 30–3.  
  3. ^ Johnston, Carol S; Tjonn, Sherrie L; Swan, Pamela D; White, Andrea; Hutchins, Heather; Sears, Barry (2006). "Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83 (5): 1055–61.  
  4. ^ Phinney, Stephen D.; Horton, Edward S.; Sims, Ethan A. H.; Hanson, John S.; Danforth, Elliot; Lagrange, Betty M. (1980). "Capacity for Moderate Exercise in Obese Subjects after Adaptation to a Hypocaloric, Ketogenic Diet". Journal of Clinical Investigation 66 (5): 1152–61.  
  5. ^ Owen, O. E.; Morgan, A. P.; Kemp, H. G.; Sullivan, J. M.; Herrera, M. G.; Cahill, G. F. (1967). "Brain Metabolism during Fasting*". Journal of Clinical Investigation 46 (10): 1589–95.  

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