Brown adipose tissue improves whole-body glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity in humans

Diabetes. 2014 Dec;63(12):4089-99. doi: 10.2337/db14-0746. Epub 2014 Jul 23.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) has attracted scientific interest as an antidiabetic tissue owing to its ability to dissipate energy as heat. Despite a plethora of data concerning the role of BAT in glucose metabolism in rodents, the role of BAT (if any) in glucose metabolism in humans remains unclear. To investigate whether BAT activation alters whole-body glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity in humans, we studied seven BAT-positive (BAT(+)) men and five BAT-negative (BAT(-)) men under thermoneutral conditions and after prolonged (5-8 h) cold exposure (CE). The two groups were similar in age, BMI, and adiposity. CE significantly increased resting energy expenditure, whole-body glucose disposal, plasma glucose oxidation, and insulin sensitivity in the BAT(+) group only. These results demonstrate a physiologically significant role of BAT in whole-body energy expenditure, glucose homeostasis, and insulin sensitivity in humans, and support the notion that BAT may function as an antidiabetic tissue in humans.

Trial registration: NCT01791114.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose Clamp Technique
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Multimodal Imaging
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Thermogenesis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Blood Glucose
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18

Associated data