Human adipose dynamics and metabolic health

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The two types of adipose tissue in humans, white and brown, have distinct developmental origins and functions. Human white adipose tissue plays a pivotal role in maintaining whole-body energy homeostasis by storing triglycerides when energy is in surplus, releasing free fatty acids as a fuel during energy shortage, and secreting adipokines that are important for regulating lipid and glucose metabolism. The size of white adipose mass needs to be kept at a proper set point. Dramatic expansion of white fat mass causes obesity—now become a global epidemic disease—and increases the risk for the development of many life-threatening diseases. The absence of white adipose tissue or abnormal white adipose tissue redistribution leads to lipodystrophy, a condition often associated with metabolic disorders. Brown adipose tissue is a thermogenic organ whose mass is inversely correlated with body mass index and age. Therapeutic approaches targeting adipose tissue have been proven to be effective in improving obesity-related metabolic disorders, and promising new therapies could be developed in the near future.

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