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MRI estimates of brown adipose tissue in children - Associations to adiposity, osteocalcin, and thigh muscle volume

Journal article
Authors J. Andersson
Josefine Roswall
Emma Kjellberg
H. Ahlstrom
Jovanna Dahlgren
J. Kullberg
Published in Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Volume 58
Pages 135-142
ISSN 0730-725X
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Pediatrics
Pages 135-142
Language en
Keywords Brown adipose tissue, Magnetic resonance imaging, Adiposity, Osteocalcin, Muscle volume, insulin sensitivity, normal-weight, fat-fraction, cold, humans, identification, threshold, leptin, obese, bat, Radiology
Subject categories Pediatrics


Context Brown adipose tissue is of metabolic interest. The tissue is however poorly explored in children. Methods: Sixty-three 7-year old subjects from the Swedish birth-cohort Halland Health and Growth Study were recruited. Care was taken to include both normal weight and overweight children, but the subjects were otherwise healthy. Only children born full term were included. Water-fat separated whole-body MRI scans, anthropometric measurements, and measurements of fasting glucose and levels of energy homeostasis related hormones, including the insulin-sensitizer osteocalcin, were performed. The fat fraction (FF) and effective transverse relaxation time (T-2(star)) of suspected brown adipose tissue in the cervical-supraclavicular-axillary fat depot (sBAT) and the FFs of abdominal visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) were measured. Volumes of sBAT, abdominal VAT and SAT, and thigh muscle volumes were measured. Results: The FF in the sBAT depot was lower than in VAT and SAT for all children. In linear correlations including sex and age as explanatory variables, sBAT FF correlated positively with all measures of adiposity (p < 0.01), except for VAT FF and weight, positively with sBAT T-2* (p = 0.036), and negatively with osteocalcin (p = 0.017). When adding measures of adiposity as explanatory variables, sBAT FF also correlated negatively with thigh muscle volume (p < 0.01). Conclusions: Whole-body water-fat MRI of children allows for measurements of sBAT. The FF of sBAT was lower than that of VAT and SAT, indicating presence of BAT. Future studies could confirm whether the observed correlations corresponds to a hormonally active BAT.

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