Body fat and sympathetic nerve activity in healthy subjects.
BACKGROUND Obesity is associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular complications, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. In experimental animals, overfeeding is associated with sympathetic activation, and there is evidence that adrenergic mechanisms contribute to cardiovascular complications.
METHODS AND RESULTS We recorded resting postganglionic sympathetic nerve discharge (using intraneural microelectrodes) to skeletal muscle blood vessels in 37 healthy subjects covering a broad spectrum of percent body fat. To assess potential functional consequences of sympathetic nerve discharge, we simultaneously measured calf vascular resistance and energy expenditure. The resting rate of sympathetic nerve discharge to skeletal muscle was directly correlated with body mass index (r = .67, P < .0001) and percent body fat (r = .64, P < .0001). In addition to body fat, muscle sympathetic nerve activity was correlated with age (r = .40, P < .02), plasma insulin concentration (r = .34, P < .04), and plasma lactate concentration (r = .35, P < .04). Together, these four covariates accounted for 58% of the variance of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (P < .0001). The rate of sympathetic nerve discharge to calf blood vessels was directly correlated with calf vascular resistance (r = .40, P < .02) but did not predict energy expenditure (r = .22, P = .19).
CONCLUSIONS In healthy humans, body fat is a major determinant of the resting rate of muscle sympathetic nerve discharge. Overweight-associated sympathetic activation could represent one potential mechanism contributing to the increased incidence of cardiovascular complications in overweight subjects.
- Copyright © 1994 by American Heart Association