Neural mechanisms in human obesity-related hypertension

ArticleinJournal of Hypertension 17(8):1125-33 · September 1999with7 Reads
Impact Factor: 4.72 · DOI: 10.1097/00004872-199917080-00012 · Source: PubMed


    Two hypotheses concerning mechanisms of weight gain and of blood pressure elevation in obesity were tested. The first hypothesis is that in human obesity sympathetic nervous system underactivity is present, as a metabolic basis for the obesity. The second hypothesis, attributable to Landsberg, is that sympathetic nervous activation occurs with chronic overeating, elevating blood pressure. These are not mutually exclusive hypotheses, since obesity is a heterogeneous disorder.
    Whole body and regional sympathetic nervous system activity, in the kidneys and heart, was measured at rest using noradrenaline isotope dilution methodology in a total of 86 research voluteers in four different subject groups, in lean and in obese people who either did, or did not, have high blood pressure.
    In the lean hypertensive patients, noradrenaline spillover for the whole body, and from the heart and kidneys was substantially higher than in the healthy lean volunteers. In normotensive obesity, the whole body noradrenaline spillover rate was normal, mean renal noradrenaline spillover was elevated (twice normal), and cardiac noradrenaline spillover reduced by approximately 50%. In obesity-related hypertension, there was elevation of renal noradrenaline spillover, comparable to that present in normotensive obese individuals but not accompanied by suppression of cardiac noradrenaline spillover, which was more than double that of normotensive obese individuals (P<0.05), and 25% higher than in healthy volunteers. There was a parallel elevation of heart rate in hypertensive obese individuals.
    The sympathetic underactivity hypothesis of obesity causation now looks untenable, as based on measures of noradrenaline spillover, sympathetic nervous system activity was normal for the whole body and increased for the kidneys; the low sympathetic activity in the heart would have only a trifling impact on total energy balance. The increase in renal sympathetic activity in obesity may possibly be a necessary cause for the development of hypertension in obese individuals, although clearly not a sufficient cause, being present in both normotensive and hypertensive obese individuals. The discriminating feature of obesity-related hypertension was an absence of the suppression of the cardiac sympathetic outflow seen in normotensive obese individuals. Sympathetic nervous changes in obesity-related hypertension conformed rather closely to those expected from the Landsberg hypothesis.