Childhood obesity is a growing worldwide problem. In adults, lower cold-induced brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity is linked to obesity and metabolic dysfunction; this relationship remains uncertain in children. In this cross-sectional study, we compared cold-induced supraclavicular (SCV) BAT activity (percent change in proton density fat fraction [PDFF]) within the SCV region after 1 h of whole-body cold exposure (18°C), using MRI in 26 boys aged 8–10 years: 13 with normal BMI and 13 with overweight/obesity. Anthropometry, body composition, hepatic fat, visceral adipose tissue (VAT), and pre- and postcold PDFF of the subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) in the posterior neck region and the abdomen were measured. Boys with overweight/obesity had lower cold-induced percent decline in SCV PDFF compared with those with normal BMI (1.6 ± 0.8 vs. 4.7 ± 1.2%, P = 0.044). SCV PDFF declined significantly in boys with normal BMI (2.7 ± 0.7%, P = 0.003) but not in boys with overweight/obesity (1.1 ± 0.5%, P = 0.053). No cold-induced changes in the PDFF of either neck SAT (−0.89 ± 0.7%, P = 0.250, vs. 0.37 ± 0.3%, P = 0.230) or abdominal SAT (−0.39 ± 0.5%, P = 0.409, and 0.25 ± 0.2%, P = 0.139, for normal BMI and overweight/obesity groups, respectively) were seen. The cold-induced percent decline in SCV PDFF was inversely related to BMI (r = −0.39, P = 0.047), waist circumference (r = −0.48, P = 0.014), and VAT (r = −0.47, P = 0.014). Thus, in young boys, as in adults, BAT activity is lower in those with overweight/obesity, suggesting that restoring activity may be important for improving metabolic health.

G.R.S. and K.M.M. made comparable contributions.

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