Short-term Cold Acclimation Recruits Brown Adipose Tissue in Obese Humans

Recruitment of brown adipose tissue (BAT) has emerged as a potential tool to combat obesity and associated metabolic complications. Short-term cold acclimation has been shown not only to enhance the presence and activity of BAT in lean humans but also to improve the metabolic profile of skeletal muscle to benefit glucose uptake in patients with type 2 diabetes. Here we examined whether short-term cold acclimation also induced such adaptations in 10 metabolically healthy obese male subjects. A 10-day cold acclimation period resulted in increased cold-induced glucose uptake in BAT, as assessed by [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography. BAT activity was negatively related to age, with a similar trend for body fat percentage. In addition, cold-induced glucose uptake in BAT was positively related to glucose uptake in visceral white adipose tissue, although glucose uptake in visceral and subcutaneous white adipose tissue depots was unchanged upon cold acclimation. Cold-induced skeletal muscle glucose uptake tended to increase upon cold acclimation, which was paralleled by increased basal GLUT4 localization in the sarcolemma, as assessed through muscle biopsies. Proximal skin temperature was increased and subjective responses to cold were slightly improved at the end of the acclimation period. These metabolic adaptations to prolonged exposure to mild cold may lead to improved glucose metabolism or prevent the development of obesity-associated insulin resistance and hyperglycemia.

Diabetes Journal current issue

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