Human brown adipose tissue: regulation and anti-obesity potential

Endocr J. 2014;61(5):409-16. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.ej13-0527. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is the site of sympathetically activated adaptive thermognenesis during cold exposure and after hyperphagia, thereby controlling whole-body energy expenditure (EE) and body fat. Radionuclide imaging studies have demonstrated that adult humans have metabolically active BAT composed of mainly beige/brite adipocytes, recently identified brown-like adipocytes. The inverse relationship between the BAT activity and body fatness suggests that BAT is, because of its energy dissipating activity, protective against body fat accumulation in humans as it is in small rodents. In fact, either repeated cold exposure or daily ingestion of some food ingredients acting on transient receptor potential channels recruits BAT in parallel with increased EE and decreased body fat. In addition to the sympathetic nervous system, several endocrine factors are also shown to recruit BAT. Thus, BAT is a promising therapeutic target for combating human obesity and related metabolic disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / innervation
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Thermogenesis / physiology