Environmental toxicants, brown adipose tissue, and potential links to obesity and metabolic disease
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Rates of human obesity, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have risen faster than anticipated and cannot solely be explained by excessive caloric intake or physical inactivity. Importantly, this effect is also observed in many other domesticated and non-domesticated mammals, which has led to the hypothesis that synthetic environmental pollutants may be contributing to disease development. While the impact of these chemicals on appetite and adipogenesis has been extensively studied, their potential role in reducing energy expenditure is less studied. An important component of whole-body energy expenditure is adaptive and diet-induced thermogenesis in human brown adipose tissue (BAT). This review summarizes recent evidence that environmental pollutants such as the pesticide chlorpyrifos inhibit BAT function, diet-induced thermogenesis and the potential signaling pathways mediating these effects. Lastly, we discuss the importance of housing experimental mice at thermoneutrality, rather than room temperature, to maximize the translation of findings to humans.
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