To characterize the changes in brown adipose tissue (BAT) during puberty in boys and girls.
We examined the prevalence and the volume of BAT at different stages of sexual development in pediatric patients who underwent positron emission tomography/computer tomography (PET/CT) studies.
Of the 73 patients, 43 (59%) had BAT depicted on PET/CT. Visualized BAT was significantly less prevalent in PET/CT studies of pre-pubertal (Tanner stage 1) children than pubertal (Tanner stages 2-5) subjects (15% vs. 75%). Values for the volume of BAT also increased during puberty, but the magnitude of the increase was substantially greater during the final two stages of puberty (Tanner stage 4 or 5) than in earlier stages of sexual development (Tanner stages 1, 2, and 3) (Boys: 499±246 vs. 50±36, p <0.0001, Girls: 286±139 vs. 36±29, p = 0.024). Changes in BAT volume were also significantly greater in boys than in girls (p = 0.004) and were closely related to muscle volume (r’s = 0.52, 0.64 and both p’s<0.01, for boys and girls, respectively).
The depiction and the volume of brown fat increase during puberty. Metabolic and hormonal events related to the achievement of sexual maturity are likely responsible for the rapid increase in brown fat that occurs during puberty.