Get access

Nutraceuticals and regulation of adipocyte life: Premises or promises


  • Monica Colitti,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Udine, Udine, Italy
    • Address for Correspondence: Prof. Monica Colitti; Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Università di Udine, via delle Scienze, Udine 206-33100, Italy. Tel.: +390432558583; Fax: +390432558603; E-mail:

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stefano Grasso

    1. Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Udine, Udine, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author


Obesity is the actual worldwide health threat, that is associated with an increased number of metabolic disorders and diseases. Following the traditional hypothesis stating that in obesity hypertrophic adipocytes trigger the adipose tissue hyperplasia, strategies to treat obesity have increased fat researches of the molecular processes that achieve adipocyte enlargement and formation that finally increase body fat mass. Moreover, a new cell type was recently identified, the “brite” adipocyte that presents a unique gene expression profile of compared to both brown and white adipocytes. Therapies against obesity, targeting these cells and their pathways, would include the induction of lipolysis and apoptosis or the inhibition of differentiation and adipogenesis. However, it should be noted that both the increase of adipocyte size and number take place in association with positive energy balance. According to the adipose tissue expansion hypothesis, adipogenesis could be related with improved metabolic health of obese people, taking back the adipose mass to a traditionally site of lipid storage. Furthermore, new perspectives in fat biology suggest that the conversion of white-to-brown adipocytes and their metabolism could be exploited for the development of therapeutic approaches against obesity-associated diseases and for the regulation of energy balance. Drugs currently available to treat obesity generally have unpleasant side effects. A novel promising approach is the usage of dietary supplements and plant products that could interfere on the life cycle of adipocyte. Here, various dietary bioactive compounds that target different stages of adipocyte life cycle and molecular and metabolic pathways are reviewed. © 2014 BioFactors, 40(4):398–418, 2014