Factors involved in white-to-brown adipose tissue conversion and in thermogenesis: a review

Obes Rev. 2017 May;18(5):495-513. doi: 10.1111/obr.12520. Epub 2017 Feb 10.


Obesity is the result of energy intake chronically exceeding energy expenditure. Classical treatments against obesity do not provide a satisfactory long-term outcome for the majority of patients. After the demonstration of functional brown adipose tissue in human adults, great effort is being devoted to develop therapies based on the adipose tissue itself, through the conversion of fat-accumulating white adipose tissue into energy-dissipating brown adipose tissue. Anti-obesity treatments that exploit endogenous, pharmacological and nutritional factors to drive such conversion are especially in demand. In the present review, we summarize the current knowledge about the various molecules that can be applied in promoting white-to-brown adipose tissue conversion and energy expenditure and the cellular mechanisms involved.

Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; browning; thermogenesis; white adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Thermogenesis*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents