Relevance of brown adipose tissue in infancy and adolescence

Pediatr Res. 2013 Jan;73(1):3-9. doi: 10.1038/pr.2012.141. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) was thought to disappear after infancy. Recent findings of BAT in patients undergoing positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) have renewed the interest in deciphering the relevance of this tissue in humans. Available data suggest that BAT is more prevalent in children than in adults and that its activation during adolescence is associated with significantly lower gains in weight and adiposity. Data also show that pediatric patients with metabolically active BAT on PET/CT examinations have significantly greater muscle volume than patients without identifiable BAT. Both the activity and the amount of BAT increase during puberty. The magnitude of the increase is higher in boys as compared with girls and is closely related to gains in muscle volume. Hence, concurrent with the gains in skeletal muscle during infancy and puberty, all infants and adolescents accumulate large amounts of BAT. These observations are consistent with in vitro investigations suggesting close interactions between brown adipocytes, white adipocytes, and myocytes. In this review, we discuss the potential role of this tissue in regulating weight and musculoskeletal development in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / anatomy & histology*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Development / physiology*
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Sex Factors