Chemical Oxygen Demand Can Be Converted to Gross Energy for Food Items Using a Linear Regression Model

Taylor L. Davis, Blake DIrks, Elvis A. Carnero, Karen D. Corbin, Jonathon Krakoff, Shannon Parrington, Donghun Lee, Steven R. Smith, Bruce E. Rittmann, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Andrew K. Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Human and microbial metabolism are distinct disciplines. Terminology, metrics, and methodologies have been developed separately. Therefore, combining the 2 fields to study energetic processes simultaneously is difficult. Objectives: When developing a mechanistic framework describing gut microbiome and human metabolism interactions, energy values of food and digestive materials that use consistent and compatible metrics are required. As an initial step toward this goal, we developed and validated a model to convert between chemical oxygen demand (COD) and gross energy (${E_g}$) for >100 food items and ingredients. Methods: We developed linear regression models to relate (and be able to convert between) theoretical gross energy (${E_g}^{\prime}$) and chemical oxygen demand (COD′); the latter is a measure of electron equivalents in the food's carbon. We developed an overall regression model for the food items as a whole and separate regression models for the carbohydrate, protein, and fat components. The models were validated using a sample set of computed ${E_g}^{\prime}$ and COD′ values, an experimental sample set using measured ${E_g}$ and COD values, and robust statistical methods. Results: The overall linear regression model and the carbohydrate, protein, and fat regression models accurately converted between COD and ${E_g}$, and the component models had smaller error. Because the ratios of COD per gram dry weight were greatest for fats and smallest for carbohydrates, foods with a high fat content also had higher ${E_g}$ values in terms of kcal g dry weight-1. Conclusion: Our models make it possible to analyze human and microbial energetic processes in concert using a single unit of measure, which fills an important need in the food-nutrition-metabolism-microbiome field. In addition, measuring COD and using the regressions to calculate ${E_g}$ can be used instead of measuring ${E_g}$ directly using bomb calorimetry, which saves time and money.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-453
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • chemical oxygen demand
  • gross energy
  • gut microbiota
  • human metabolism
  • linear regression model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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