Exposure to low ambient temperatures has previously been demonstrated to markedly improve glucose homeostasis in both rodents and humans. Although the brown adipose tissue is key in mediating these beneficial effects in rodents, its contribution appears more limited in humans. Hence, the exact tissues and underlying mechanisms that mediate cold-induced improvements in glucose homeostasis in humans remain to be fully established. In this review, we evaluated the response of the main organs involved in glucose metabolism (i.e. pancreas, liver, (white) adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle) to cold exposure and discuss their potential contribution to cold-induced improvements in glucose homeostasis in humans. We here show that cold exposure has widespread effects on metabolic organs involved in glucose regulation. Nevertheless, cold-induced improvements in glucose homeostasis appear primarily mediated via adaptations within the skeletal muscle and (presumably) white adipose tissue. Since the underlying mechanisms remain elusive, future studies should be aimed at pinpointing the exact physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in humans. Nonetheless, cold exposure holds great promise as a novel, additive lifestyle approach to improve glucose homeostasis in insulin resistant individuals.
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SvB is supported by a grant from the Nutrim NWO graduate program.
TB owns stock in Atrogi A.B. Other authors declare no competing interests.
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van Beek, S., Hashim, D., Bengtsson, T. et al. Physiological and molecular mechanisms of cold-induced improvements in glucose homeostasis in humans beyond brown adipose tissue. Int J Obes 47, 338–347 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-023-01270-z