Activation of Human Brown Adipose Tissue by Capsinoids, Catechins, Ephedrine, and Other Dietary Components: A Systematic Review

Adv Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;10(2):291-302. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmy067.


Human brown adipose tissue (BAT) has attracted clinical interest not only because it dissipates energy but also for its potential capacity to counteract obesity and related metabolic disorders (e.g., insulin resistance and dyslipidemia). Cold exposure is the most powerful stimulus for activating and recruiting BAT, and this stimulatory effect is mediated by the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. BAT can also be activated by other receptors such as the G-protein-coupled bile acid receptor 1 (GPBAR1) or β-adrenergic receptors. Interestingly, these receptors also interact with several dietary components; in particular, capsinoids and tea catechins appear to mimic the effects of cold through a TRP-BAT axis, and they consequently seem to decrease body fat and improve metabolic blood parameters. This systematic review critically addresses the evidence behind the available human studies analyzing the effect of several dietary components (e.g., capsinoids, tea catechins, and ephedrine) on BAT activity. Even though the results of these studies are consistent with the outcomes of preclinical models, the lack of robust study designs makes it impossible to confirm the BAT-activation capacity of the specified dietary components. Further investigation into the effects of dietary components on BAT is warranted to clarify to what extent these components could serve as a powerful strategy to treat obesity and related metabolic disorders.

Keywords: 18F-FDG PET/CT; TRP channels; brown fat; dietary components; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects*
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Catechin / pharmacology*
  • Ephedrine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Tea / chemistry
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / metabolism


  • GPBAR1 protein, human
  • Phytochemicals
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Tea
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels
  • Catechin
  • Ephedrine
  • Capsaicin