Age-related decrease in cold-activated brown adipose tissue and accumulation of body fat in healthy humans

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Sep;19(9):1755-60. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.125. Epub 2011 May 12.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) can be identified by (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) combined with X-ray computed tomography (CT) in adult humans. The objective of this study was to clarify the relationship between BAT and adiposity in healthy adult humans, particularly to test the idea that decreased BAT activity may be associated with body fat accumulation with age. One hundred and sixty-two healthy volunteers aged 20-73 years (103 males and 59 females) underwent FDG-PET/CT after 2-h cold exposure at 19 °C with light clothing. Cold-activated BAT was detected in 41% of the subjects (BAT-positive). Compared with the BAT-negative group, the BAT-positive group was younger (P < 0.01) and showed a lower BMI (P < 0.01), body fat content (P < 0.01), and abdominal fat (P < 0.01). The incidence of cold-activated BAT decreased with age (P < 0.01), being more than 50% in the twenties, but less than 10% in the fifties and sixties. The adiposity-related parameters showed some sex differences, but increased with age in the BAT-negative group (P < 0.01), while they remained unchanged from the twenties to forties in the BAT-positive group, in both sexes. These results suggest that decreased BAT activity may be associated with accumulation of body fat with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / growth & development
  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / growth & development*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / growth & development*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging* / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cold Temperature
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Whole Body Imaging
  • Young Adult


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18