Optimizing the methodology for measuring supraclavicular skin temperature using infrared thermography; implications for measuring brown adipose tissue activity in humans
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The discovery of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adults has sparked interest in its role as a therapeutic target in metabolic disorders. Infrared thermography is a promising way to quantify BAT; however, a standardized methodology has not been established. This study aims to establish a standardized and reproducible protocol to measure thermal response to cold in the supraclavicular area using thermographic imaging. In Phase 1, we compared the thermal response to 12 °C cold after acclimation at either 32 °C or room temperature using thermographic imaging. Repeatability of the 32 °C acclimation trial was studied in a second group in Phase 2. Phase 1 included 28 men (mean age 23.9 ± 5.9 y; mean BMI 25.2 ± 3.9 kg/m2) and Phase 2 included 14 men (mean age 20.9 ± 2.4 y; mean BMI 23.6 ± 3.1 kg/m2). The thermal response was greater after 32 °C than after room temperature acclimation (0.22 ± 0.19 vs 0.13 ± 0.17 °C, p = 0.05), was not related to outdoor temperature (r = -0.35, p = 0.07), did not correlate with supraclavicular fat (r = -0.26, p = 0.21) measured with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and was repeatable [ICC 0.69 (0.14-0.72)]. Acclimation at 32 °C followed by cold generates a reproducible change in supraclavicular skin temperature measurable by thermal imaging that may be indicative of BAT metabolic activity.
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