Brown adipose tissue activity after a high-calorie meal in humans

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. June 2013

Maarten J Vosselman, Boudewijn Brans, Anouk AJJ van der Lans, Roel Wierts, Marleen A van Baak, Felix M Mottaghy, Patrick Schrauwen, and Wouter D van Marken Lichtenbelt
+ Author Affiliations

From the Department of Human Biology, NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Center+ Maastricht, Netherlands (MJV, AAJJvdL, MAvB, PS, and WDvML), and the Department of Nuclear Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Center+ Maastricht, Netherlands (BB, RW, and FMM).
+ Author Notes

Supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (TOP 91209037 to WDvML) and the EU FP7 project DIABAT (HEALTH-F2-2011- 278373).

Address correspondence to WD van Marken Lichtenbelt, NUTRIM, School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Background: Studies in rodents have shown that brown adipose tissue (BAT) is activated on food intake, thereby reducing metabolic efficiency.

Objective: The current study investigated whether a single high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich meal activates BAT in lean human adults.

Design: BAT activity was studied in 11 lean adult men [age: 23.6 ± 2.1 y; body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2): 22.4 ± 2.1] after consumption of a high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich meal (1622 ± 222 kcal; 78% carbohydrate, 12% P, 10% F). BAT activity during 2 h of mild cold exposure served as a positive control experiment. BAT activity was assessed by [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)–positron emission tomography–computed tomography. Energy expenditure was measured by indirect calorimetry.

Results: Postprandial [18F]FDG uptake was significantly higher in BAT [1.65 ± 0.99 mean standard uptake value (SUVmean)] than in subcutaneous (0.35 ± 0.15 SUVmean; P < 0.05) and visceral (0.49 ± 0.24 SUVmean; P < 0.05) white adipose tissue and liver (0.95 ± 0.28 SUVmean; P < 0.05). Postprandial BAT activity was lower than cold-induced BAT activity (7.19 ± 2.09 SUVmean). However, postprandial BAT activity may have been underestimated because of high postprandial [18F]FDG uptake in skeletal muscle compared with cold (1.36 ± 0.31 compared with 0.59 ± 0.07 SUVmean, P < 0.05), which reduces [18F]FDG bioavailability for BAT and other tissues. No direct relation was found between BAT and diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT).

Conclusions: Glucose uptake in BAT increases after a meal in humans, which indicates a role for BAT in reducing metabolic efficiency. However, the quantitative contribution of BAT to DIT relative to other tissues, such as skeletal muscle, remains to be investigated. This trial was registered at as ISRCTN21413505.

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 10:30
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