Brown adipose tissue as a regulator of energy expenditure and body fat in humans

Diabetes Metab J. 2013 Feb;37(1):22-9. doi: 10.4093/dmj.2013.37.1.22. Epub 2013 Feb 15.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is recognized as the major site of sympathetically activated nonshivering thermogenesis during cold exposure and after spontaneous hyperphagia, thereby controling whole-body energy expenditure and body fat. In adult humans, BAT has long been believed to be absent or negligible, but recent studies using fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography, in combination with computed tomography, demonstrated the existence of metabolically active BAT in healthy adult humans. Human BAT is activated by acute cold exposure, being positively correlated to cold-induced increases in energy expenditure. The metabolic activity of BAT differs among individuals, being lower in older and obese individuals. Thus, BAT is recognized as a regulator of whole-body energy expenditure and body fat in humans as in small rodents, and a hopeful target combating obesity and related disorders. In fact, there are some food ingredients such as capsaicin and capsinoids, which have potential to activate and recruit BAT via activity on the specific receptor, transient receptor potential channels, thereby increasing energy expenditure and decreasing body fat modestly and consistently.

Keywords: Adipose tissue, brown; Capsinoids; Cold exposure; Energy expenditure; Non-shivering thermogenesis; Obesity; Transient receptor potential channel.