Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is responsible for cold- and diet-induced thermogenesis, and thereby contributes to the control of whole-body energy expenditure (EE) and body fat content. BAT activity can be assessed by fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) in human subjects. Grains of paradise (GP, Aframomum melegueta), a species of the ginger family, contain pungent, aromatic ketones such as 6-paradol, 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol. An alcohol extract of GP seeds and 6-paradol are known to activate BAT thermogenesis in small rodents. The present study aimed to examine the effects of the GP extract on whole-body EE and to analyse its relation to BAT activity in men. A total of nineteen healthy male volunteers aged 20–32 years underwent FDG-PET after 2 h of exposure to cold at 19°C with light clothing. A total of twelve subjects showed marked FDG uptake into the adipose tissue of the supraclavicular and paraspinal regions (BAT positive). The remaining seven showed no detectable uptake (BAT negative). Within 4 weeks after the FDG-PET examination, whole-body EE was measured at 27°C before and after oral ingestion of GP extract (40 mg) in a single-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, crossover design. The resting EE of the BAT-positive group did not differ from that of the BAT-negative group. After GP extract ingestion, the EE of the BAT-positive group increased within 2 h to a significantly greater (P< 0·01) level than that of the BAT-negative group. Placebo ingestion produced no significant change in EE. These results suggest that oral ingestion of GP extract increases whole-body EE through the activation of BAT in human subjects.