Brown Adipose Tissue Thermogenesis Among Young Adults in Northeastern Siberia and Midwest United States and its Relationship With Other Biological Adaptations to Cold Climates

Document Type


Publication Title

American Journal of Human Biology


Objectives: Recent research suggests that brown adipose tissue (BAT) plays a functional role in non-shivering thermogenesis; however, few studies have examined population variation in BAT or its relationship with other mechanisms of adaptation to cold stress. This study characterized BAT thermogenesis and other adaptive responses to low temperatures among Indigenous Siberian young adults and young adults living near Chicago, IL.

Materials and methods: We recruited 72 Yakut participants (42 females; 30 males) and 54 participants in Evanston, IL (40 females; 14 males). Anthropometric dimensions and resting metabolic rate (RMR) were measured, and we calculated percent divergence in RMR from expected values (divRMR). We also quantified change in supraclavicular temperature, sternum temperature, and energy expenditure after a mild cooling condition.

Results: Participants in Yakutia were less likely to shiver during the cooling condition (p < .05) and exhibited significantly greater evidence of BAT thermogenesis, warmer sternum temperatures, and higher divRMR than participants in Evanston (p < .05). Additionally, the relationship between change in supraclavicular temperature and energy expenditure differed between the two samples.

Conclusions: Yakut young adults displayed greater evidence of BAT thermogenesis in response to mild cooling compared with young adults living near Chicago, IL. Furthermore, the relationship between BAT thermogenesis and change in energy expenditure appears to be stronger among Yakut adults. Adults that exhibited greater metabolic response to cold stress, such as higher BAT thermogenesis and divRMR, maintained warmer sternum temperatures. These results highlight the degree to which adaptation to cold climates involves multiple integrated biological pathways.



Publication Date



Brown adipose tissue, cold climate, energy metabolism, thermogenesis