Sympathetic activity in obesity: a brief review of methods and supportive data

Gavin W. Lambert, Markus P. Schlaich, Nina Eikelis, Elisabeth A. Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

6 Citations (Scopus)


The increase in the prevalence of obesity and the concomitant rise in obesity-related illness have led to substantial pressure on health care systems throughout the world. While the combination of reduced exercise, increased sedentary time, poor diet, and genetic predisposition is undoubtedly pivotal in generating obesity and increasing disease risk, a large body of work indicates that the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) contributes to obesity-related disease development and progression. In obesity, sympathetic nervous activity is regionalized, with activity in some outflows being particularly sensitive to the obese state, whereas other outflows, or responses to stimuli, may be blunted, thereby making the assessment of sympathetic nervous activation in the clinical setting difficult. Isotope dilution methods and direct nerve recording techniques have been developed and utilized in clinical research, demonstrating that in obesity there is preferential activation of the muscle vasoconstrictor and renal sympathetic outflows. With weight loss, sympathetic activity is reduced. Importantly, sympathetic nervous activity is associated with end-organ dysfunction and changes in sympathetic activation that accompany weight loss are often reflected in an improvement of end-organ function. Whether targeting the SNS directly improves obesity-related illness remains unknown, but merits further attention.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jul 2019

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