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Metabolism. 2016 Jun;65(6):926-34. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2016.03.012. Epub 2016 Apr 1.

A randomized trial of cold-exposure on energy expenditure and supraclavicular brown adipose tissue volume in humans.

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Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV), Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; Department of Biomedical Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Linköping University.
Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
Department of Medical and Clinical Genetics, Institute of Biomedicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Linköping University. Electronic address:



To study if repeated cold-exposure increases metabolic rate and/or brown adipose tissue (BAT) volume in humans when compared with avoiding to freeze.


Randomized, open, parallel-group trial.


Healthy non-selected participants were randomized to achieve cold-exposure 1hour/day, or to avoid any sense of feeling cold, for 6weeks. Metabolic rate (MR) was measured by indirect calorimetry before and after acute cold-exposure with cold vests and ingestion of cold water. The BAT volumes in the supraclavicular region were measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


Twenty-eight participants were recruited, 12 were allocated to controls and 16 to cold-exposure. Two participants in the cold group dropped out and one was excluded. Both the non-stimulated and the cold-stimulated MR were lowered within the group randomized to avoid cold (MR at room temperature from 1841±199 kCal/24h to 1795±213 kCal/24h, p=0.047 cold-activated MR from 1900±150 kCal/24h to 1793±215 kCal/24h, p=0.028). There was a trend towards increased MR at room temperature following the intervention in the cold-group (p=0.052). The difference between MR changes by the interventions between groups was statistically significant (p=0.008 at room temperature, p=0.032 after cold-activation). In an on-treatment analysis after exclusion of two participants that reported ≥8days without cold-exposure, supraclavicular BAT volume had increased in the cold-exposure group (from 0.0175±0.015l to 0.0216±0.014l, p=0.049).


We found evidence for plasticity in metabolic rate by avoiding to freeze compared with cold-exposure in a randomized setting in non-selected humans.


Brown adipose tissue; Cold exposure; Magnetic resonance imaging; Metabolic rate

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