Carotenoids and their conversion products in the control of adipocyte function, adiposity and obesity

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015 Apr 15:572:112-125. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2015 Feb 23.


A novel perspective of the function of carotenoids and carotenoid-derived products - including, but not restricted to, the retinoids - is emerging in recent years which connects these compounds to the control of adipocyte biology and body fat accumulation, with implications for the management of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Cell and animal studies indicate that carotenoids and carotenoids derivatives can reduce adiposity and impact key aspects of adipose tissue biology including adipocyte differentiation, hypertrophy, capacity for fatty acid oxidation and thermogenesis (including browning of white adipose tissue) and secretory function. Epidemiological studies in humans associate higher dietary intakes and serum levels of carotenoids with decreased adiposity. Specifically designed human intervention studies, though still sparse, indicate a beneficial effect of carotenoid supplementation in the accrual of abdominal adiposity. The objective of this review is to summarize recent findings in this area, place them in physiological contexts, and provide likely regulatory schemes whenever possible. The focus will be on the effects of carotenoids as nutritional regulators of adipose tissue biology and both animal and human studies, which support a role of carotenoids and retinoids in the prevention of abdominal adiposity.

Keywords: Adiposity; Apocarotenoids; Carotenoids; Energy metabolism; Obesity; White adipose tissue browning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / pathology
  • Adipogenesis
  • Adiposity*
  • Animals
  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology


  • Carotenoids