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Beyond obesity - thermogenic adipocytes and cardiometabolic health

Aldiss, Peter; Dellschaft, Neele S.; Sacks, Harold; Budge, Helen; Symonds, Michael E.

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Peter Aldiss

Neele S. Dellschaft

Harold Sacks

Professor of Neonatal Medicine

Michael E. Symonds


The global prevalence of obesity and related cardiometabolic disease continues to increase through the 21st century. Whilst multi-factorial, obesity is ultimately caused by chronic caloric excess. However, despite numerous interventions focussing on reducing caloric intake these either fail or only elicit short-term changes in body mass. There is now a focus on increasing energy expenditure instead which has stemmed from the recent ‘re-discovery’ of cold-activated brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adult humans and inducible ‘beige’ adipocytes. Through the unique mitochondrial uncoupling protein (UCP1), these thermogenic adipocytes are capable of combusting large amounts of chemical energy as heat and in animal models can prevent obesity and cardiometabolic disease. At present, human data does not point to a role for thermogenic adipocytes in regulating body weight or fat mass but points to a pivotal role in regulating metabolic health by improving insulin resistance as well as glucose and lipid homeostasis. This review will therefore focus on the metabolic benefits of BAT activation and the mechanisms and signalling pathways by which these could occur including improvements in insulin signalling in peripheral tissues, systemic lipid and cholesterol metabolism and cardiac and vascular function.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 22, 2017
Online Publication Date May 26, 2017
Deposit Date Mar 31, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2017
Journal Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation
Print ISSN 1868-1883
Electronic ISSN 1868-1891
Publisher De Gruyter
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 2
Keywords brown adipose tissue; cardiometabolic health; glucose metabolism; insulin signalling; lipid metabolism
Public URL
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