Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Sexual dimorphism of brown adipose tissue function

Robinson, Lindsay J.; Law, James; Astle, Valerie; Gutiérrez García, Marta; Ohja, Shalini; Symonds, Michael E.; Pitchford, Nicola; Budge, Helen

Sexual dimorphism of brown adipose tissue function Thumbnail


Lindsay J. Robinson

James Law

Valerie Astle

Marta Gutiérrez García

Shalini Ohja

Michael E. Symonds

Professor of Developmental Psychology

Professor of Neonatal Medicine


To determine whether brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity in school-age children differs between the sexes and to explore the impact of dietary intake, sedentary behavior, and picky/fussy eating.

Study design
Children aged 8.5-11.8 years of age (n = 36) underwent infrared thermography to determine the temperature of the skin overlying the main superficial BAT depot in the supraclavicular region before and after 5 minutes of mild cold exposure (single-hand immersion in cool tap water at about 20°C). The relationships between the supraclavicular region temperature and parental reports of food consumption, eating behavior, and inactivity were explored.

The supraclavicular region temperature was higher in boys (n = 16) at baseline, and after cold exposure. Boys displayed a greater thermogenic response to cold. Strong negative correlations were observed between the supraclavicular region temperature and body mass index percentile, and differences in supraclavicular region temperature between girls and boys persisted after adjustment for body mass index percentile. A negative linear relationship was observed between protein and vegetable intake and supraclavicular region temperature in girls only, but did not persist after adjustment for multiple comparisons. There was no difference in the adjusted supraclavicular region temperature between active or inactive children, or picky and nonpicky eaters.

These findings indicate sexual dimorphism in BAT thermogenic activity and a sex-specific impact of diet. Future studies should aim to quantify the contribution of BAT to childhood energy expenditure, energy imbalance, and any role in the origins of childhood obesity.


Robinson, L. J., Law, J., Astle, V., Gutiérrez García, M., Ohja, S., Symonds, M. E., …Budge, H. (2019). Sexual dimorphism of brown adipose tissue function. Journal of Pediatrics, 210, 166-172.e1.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 5, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 9, 2019
Publication Date Jul 1, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 2, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 10, 2020
Journal Journal of Pediatrics
Print ISSN 0022-3476
Electronic ISSN 1097-6833
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 210
Pages 166-172.e1
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations