Transient receptor potential activated brown fat thermogenesis as a target of food ingredients for obesity management

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Nov;16(6):625-31. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283653ee1.


Purpose of review: Cold exposure activates brown adipose tissue (BAT), the major site of sympathetically activated nonshivering thermognenesis, via transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Capsaicin and its nonpungent analogue (capsinoids) are agonists for a vanilloid subtype one of TRP, and have the potential to increase whole-body energy expenditure and reduce body fat. This article reviews the regulatory roles of BAT for energy expenditure and body fat in humans, particularly focusing on food ingredients activating the TRP-BAT axis.

Recent findings: Acute cold exposure increased energy expenditure in humans with metabolically active BAT, but not those without it. Quite similar responses were found after a single oral ingestion of either capsinoids or an alcohol extract of Guinea pepper seeds, indicating that these food ingredients activate BAT and thereby increase energy expenditure. When individuals without active BAT were exposed to cold every day for 6 weeks, BAT was recruited in association with increased energy expenditure and decreased body fat. A 6-week daily ingestion of capsinoids mimicked the effects of repeated cold exposure. These findings indicate that human BAT can be reactivated/recruited, thereby increasing energy expenditure and decreasing body fat.

Summary: Human BAT recruited by prolonged ingestion of a vanilloid subtype one of TRP agonists increases energy expenditure and decreases body fat. In addition to capsinoids, there are numerous food ingredients acting as TRP agonists, which are expected to activate BAT and so be useful for the prevention of obesity in daily life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Capsicum / chemistry
  • Cold Temperature
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Thermogenesis / drug effects
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / agonists
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / metabolism*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels
  • Capsaicin