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Activation and quantification of human brown adipose tissue: Methodological considerations for between studies comparisons

Comment on: Hot heads & cool bodies: The conundrums of human BAT activity research
  • Borja Martinez-Tellez
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: PROFITH “PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity” Research Group, Department of Physical Education and Sport, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Granada, Spain.
    Affiliations
    PROFITH “PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity” Research Group, Department of Physical Education and Sport, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Granada, Spain

    Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Einthoven Laboratory for Experimental Vascular Medicine, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • Guillermo Sanchez-Delgado
    Affiliations
    PROFITH “PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity” Research Group, Department of Physical Education and Sport, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Granada, Spain
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  • Mariëtte R. Boon
    Affiliations
    Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Einthoven Laboratory for Experimental Vascular Medicine, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • Patrick C.N. Rensen
    Affiliations
    Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Einthoven Laboratory for Experimental Vascular Medicine, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • Jonatan R. Ruiz
    Affiliations
    PROFITH “PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity” Research Group, Department of Physical Education and Sport, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Granada, Spain
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Published:February 16, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2017.02.006
      We read with interest the study by Bahler et al. [
      • Bahler L.
      • Holleman F.
      • Booij J.
      • Hoekstra J.B.
      • Verberne H.J.
      Hot heads & cool bodies: the conundrums of human BAT activity research.
      ] that discusses the findings observed in two studies comparing brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity and volume in healthy young white Caucasians and South Asians [
      • Admiraal W.M.
      • Verberne H.J.
      • Karamat F.A.
      • Soeters M.R.
      • Hoekstra J.B.L.
      • Holleman F.
      Cold-induced activity of brown adipose tissue in young lean men of South-Asian and European origin.
      ,
      • Bakker L.E.H.
      • Boon M.R.
      • van der Linden R.A.
      • Arias-Bouda L.P.
      • van Klinken J.B.
      • Smit F.
      • et al.
      Brown adipose tissue volume in healthy lean south Asian adults compared with white Caucasians: a prospective, case-controlled observational study.
      ]. While Admiraal et al. [
      • Admiraal W.M.
      • Verberne H.J.
      • Karamat F.A.
      • Soeters M.R.
      • Hoekstra J.B.L.
      • Holleman F.
      Cold-induced activity of brown adipose tissue in young lean men of South-Asian and European origin.
      ] found no differences in BAT activity and volume between groups, Bakker et al. [
      • Bakker L.E.H.
      • Boon M.R.
      • van der Linden R.A.
      • Arias-Bouda L.P.
      • van Klinken J.B.
      • Smit F.
      • et al.
      Brown adipose tissue volume in healthy lean south Asian adults compared with white Caucasians: a prospective, case-controlled observational study.
      ] reported lower BAT volume in South Asians, despite the fact that both studies were comparable in terms of age, body mass index, sex, ethnicity and country of the participants. Bahler et al. [
      • Bahler L.
      • Holleman F.
      • Booij J.
      • Hoekstra J.B.
      • Verberne H.J.
      Hot heads & cool bodies: the conundrums of human BAT activity research.
      ] argued that such discrepancy between studies could be due to the use of different cooling methods to activate BAT, i.e. air-conditioning [
      • Admiraal W.M.
      • Verberne H.J.
      • Karamat F.A.
      • Soeters M.R.
      • Hoekstra J.B.L.
      • Holleman F.
      Cold-induced activity of brown adipose tissue in young lean men of South-Asian and European origin.
      ] vs. cooling blankets [
      • Bakker L.E.H.
      • Boon M.R.
      • van der Linden R.A.
      • Arias-Bouda L.P.
      • van Klinken J.B.
      • Smit F.
      • et al.
      Brown adipose tissue volume in healthy lean south Asian adults compared with white Caucasians: a prospective, case-controlled observational study.
      ]. They point to facial skin cold exposure, associated with air-conditioned cooling and not blanket-mediated cooling, as the possible key factor that would cause additional activation of BAT.

      Keywords

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      Linked Article

      • Hot heads & cool bodies: The conundrums of human brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity research
        European Journal of Internal MedicineVol. 40
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          Brown adipose tissue is able to increase energy expenditure by converting glucose and fatty acids into heat. Therefore, BAT is able to increase energy expenditure and could thereby facilitate weight loss or at least weight maintenance. Since cold is a strong activator of BAT, most prospective research is performed during cold to activate BAT. In current research, there are roughly two methods of cooling. Cooling by lowering ambient air temperature, which uses a fixed temperature for all subjects and personalized cooling, which uses cooling blankets or vests with temperatures that can be adjusted to the individual set point of shivering.
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      • Reply to: Activation and quantification of human brown adipose tissue: Methodological considerations for between studies comparisons
        European Journal of Internal MedicineVol. 41
        • Preview
          We thank Martinez-Tellez and co-authors for their interest in our article. Martinez-Tellez et al. are quite right in their statement that there are more factors involved in activation of human BAT than we described in our article [1]. However, the main aim of our manuscript was to speculate on/discuss the potential influence of facial cooling in the activation of BAT and therefore we did not focus on other differences between the publication of Admiraal et al. and Bakker et al. [2,3].
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