(HealthDay News) — Individuals with higher levels of brown adipose tissue may have a reduced risk for obesity and diabetes, according to a new study published online in Diabetes.

Noting data concerning the role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in glucose metabolism in rodents, the researchers sought to determine whether BAT activation alters whole-body glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity in humans.

Seven BAT-positive men and five BAT-negative men were exposed to normal or slightly cold temperatures for 5 to 8 hours. Age, BMI and adiposity were similar in the two groups.

The researchers analyzed samples of the men’s blood and breath to monitor changes in their hormone, blood glucose and insulin levels. The investigators also tracked their whole body oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production rates.

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The researchers found cold exposure significantly increased resting energy expenditure, whole-body glucose disposal, plasma glucose oxidation and insulin sensitivity in the BAT-positive group only.

“We showed that exposure to mild cold raised whole body energy expenditure, increased glucose removal from the circulation and improved insulin sensitivity in men who have significant amounts of brown adipose tissue depots,” Labros Sidossis, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said in a university news release.

“These results support the notion that brown adipose tissue may function as an anti-obesity and anti-diabetic tissue in humans.”


  1. Chondronikola M et al. Diabetes. 2014; doi:10.2337/db14-0746.