Apr 28, 1988

Body fat and the activity of the autonomic nervous system

The New England Journal of Medicine
H R PetersonM A Pfeifer


The cause of most cases of human obesity is unknown. Specific alterations in the activity of the autonomic nervous system may mediate and perhaps cause obesity in animal models. We therefore looked for alterations in autonomic activity in human obesity. Fifty-six healthy men with various percentages of body fat underwent autonomic testing while at rest. Significant correlations were found between the percentage of body fat and the variation in the R-R interval after beta-adrenergic blockade (r = -0.30, P less than 0.03), the heart rate (r = 0.30, P less than 0.03), the plasma norepinephrine concentration (r = -0.30, P less than 0.05), the plasma epinephrine concentration (r = -0.49, P less than 0.001), and the pupillary latency period (r = 0.39, P less than 0.01). Each of these variables reflects the activity of the sympathetic nervous system or parasympathetic nervous system or both. Depressions in sympathetic and parasympathetic activity were significantly but weakly associated with increasing percentages of body fat. These associations indicate that in obese persons, autonomic changes, though not necessarily causal, involve several organ systems. We suggest that autonomic alterations are important in human obesity, as they a...Continue Reading

  • References31
  • Citations199

Mentioned in this Paper

Autonomic Nervous System Disorders
Entire Autonomic Nervous System
Entire Parasympathetic Nervous System
Fat Pad
Sympathetic Nervous System
Diastolic Blood Pressure
Congenital, Hereditary, and Neonatal Diseases and Abnormalities
Entire Sympathetic Nervous System
Epinephrine Measurement

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