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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013 Apr;1281:160-77. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12009. Epub 2013 Jan 14.

Human adipose dynamics and metabolic health.

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Hallett Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Rhode Island Hospital, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI 02903, USA.


The two types of adipose tissue in humans, white and brown, have distinct developmental origins and functions. Human white adipose tissue plays a pivotal role in maintaining whole-body energy homeostasis by storing triglycerides when energy is in surplus, releasing free fatty acids as a fuel during energy shortage, and secreting adipokines that are important for regulating lipid and glucose metabolism. The size of white adipose mass needs to be kept at a proper set point. Dramatic expansion of white fat mass causes obesity--now become a global epidemic disease--and increases the risk for the development of many life-threatening diseases. The absence of white adipose tissue or abnormal white adipose tissue redistribution leads to lipodystrophy, a condition often associated with metabolic disorders. Brown adipose tissue is a thermogenic organ whose mass is inversely correlated with body mass index and age. Therapeutic approaches targeting adipose tissue have been proven to be effective in improving obesity-related metabolic disorders, and promising new therapies could be developed in the near future.

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