Thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT) is an important component of energy expenditure in mammals. Recent studies have confirmed its presence and metabolic role in humans. Defining the physiological regulation of BAT is therefore of great importance for developing strategies to treat metabolic diseases. Here we show that the soluble form of the low-density lipoprotein receptor relative, LR11/SorLA (sLR11), suppresses thermogenesis in adipose tissue in a cell-autonomous manner. Mice lacking LR11 are protected from diet-induced obesity associated with an increased browning of white adipose tissue and hypermetabolism. Treatment of adipocytes with sLR11 inhibits thermogenesis via the bone morphogenetic protein/TGFβ signalling pathway and reduces Smad phosphorylation. In addition, sLR11 levels in humans are shown to positively correlate with body mass index and adiposity. Given the need for tight regulation of a tissue with a high capacity for energy wastage, we propose that LR11 plays an energy conserving role that is exaggerated in states of obesity.