Brown adipose tissue, energy expenditure, and biomarkers of cardio-metabolic health among the Yakut (Sakha) of northeastern Siberia

Stephanie B. Levy*, Tatiana M. Klimova, Raisa N. Zakharova, Afanasiy I. Federov, Valentina I. Fedorova, Marina E. Baltakhinova, William R. Leonard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study provides the first investigation of non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) and brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity among an indigenous circumpolar population, the Yakut of northeastern Siberia. The study also examines the health significance of BAT activity in this population by testing the relationships between BAT thermogenesis and biomarkers of cardio-metabolic disease risk, such as percent body fat and blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Methods: Data were collected in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) for 31 men and 43 women. Change in energy expenditure and BAT thermogenesis were quantified after a 30-minute mild cooling condition. Anthropometric dimensions, blood glucose, and lipid levels were also collected. Results: On average, the skin temperature of the supraclavicular area was constant after cooling while the skin temperature of a point on the sternum dropped significantly (P <.001), thus suggesting the presence of active supraclavicular BAT among Yakut adults. Participants with evidence of greater BAT thermogenesis exhibited a larger percent change in energy expenditure (% ΔEE) and an increase in respiratory quotient (RQ) after cooling (P ≤.05). While there was no relationship between BAT activity and blood lipid levels, BAT thermogenesis was positively associated with blood glucose levels (P <.01). Conclusions: Yakut adults exhibit evidence of active BAT deposits. Given that there is a significant relationship between BAT activity and % ΔEE, it is possible that BAT plays a role in NST among Yakut adults. While the relationship between BAT and body composition is inconclusive, participants with greater BAT seemed to preferentially utilize glucose during cold stress exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23175
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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