Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a site of sympathetically activated adaptive nonshivering thermogenesis, thereby being involved in the regulation of energy balance and body fatness. Recent radionuclide imaging studies have revealed the existence of metabolically active BAT in adult humans. Human BAT is activated by acute cold exposure and contributes to cold-induced increase in whole-body energy expenditure. The metabolic activity of BAT is lower in older and obese individuals. The inverse relationship between the BAT activity and body fatness suggests that BAT, because of its energy dissipating activity, is protective against body fat accumulation. In fact, repeated cold exposure recruits BAT in association with increased energy expenditure and decreased body fatness. The stimulatory effects of cold are mediated through the activation of transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, most of which are also chemesthetic receptors for various naturally occurring substances including herbal plants and food ingredients. Capsaicin and its analog capsinoids, representative agonists of TRPV1, mimic the effects of cold to decrease body fatness through the activation and recruitment of BAT. The well-known antiobesity effect of green tea catechins is also attributable to the activation of the sympathetic nerve and BAT system. Thus, BAT is a promising target for combating obesity and related metabolic disorders in humans.
Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Capsinoids; Catechin; Energy expenditure; Food ingredients; Obesity; Transient receptor potential channels.
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