Glucose-induced thermogenesis (GIT) after a 100-g oral glucose load was measured by continuous indirect calorimetry in 32 nondiabetic and diabetic obese subjects and compared to 17 young and 13 middle aged control subjects. The obese subjects were divided into three groups: A (n = 12) normal glucose tolerance, B (n = 13) impaired glucose tolerance, and C (n = 7) diabetics, and were studied before and after a body weight loss ranging from 9.6 to 33.5 kg consecutive to a 4 to 6 months hypocaloric diet. GIT, measured over 3 h and expressed as percentage of the energy content of the load, was significantly reduced in obese groups A and C (6.2 +/- 0.6, and 3.8 +/- 0.7%, respectively) when compared to their age-matched control groups: 8.6 +/- 0.7 (young) and 5.8 +/- 0.3% (middle aged). Obese group B had a GIT of 6.1 +/- 0.6% which was lower than that of the young control group but not different from the middle-aged control group. After weight loss, GIT in the obese was further reduced in groups A and B than before weight loss: ie, 3.4 +/- 0.6 (p less than 0.001), 3.7 +/- 0.5 (p less than 0.01) respectively, whereas in group C, weight loss induced no further diminution in GIT (3.8 +/- 0.6%). These results support the concept of a thermogenic defect after glucose ingestion in obese individuals which is not the consequence of their excess body weight but may be one of the factors favoring the relapse of obesity after weight loss.