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Obesity is associated with an altered autonomic nervous system response to nutrient restriction.

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013; 79(5):648-51 (ISSN: 1365-2265)

Wijngaarden MA; Pijl H; van Dijk KW; Klaassen ES; Burggraaf J
Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.

OBJECTIVE: Heart rate variability (HRV) reflects the balance of activities of sympathetic and parasympathetic components of the autonomic nervous system. We compared HRV parameters in response to a prolonged fast in obese versus normal weight humans. In addition, the effect of weight-loss was evaluated in obese individuals.

DESIGN: Intervention study.

PATIENTS: The study subjects included 14 nondiabetic obese (12 females/2 males, aged 30 ± 3 years, Body Mass Index (BMI) 35·2 ± 1·2 kg/m(2) ) and 12 lean subjects (10 females/2 males, aged 27 ± 3 years, BMI 23·3 ± 0·5 kg/m(2) ).

MEASUREMENTS: HRV was examined 75 min after standardized breakfast and after a 48-h fast in 14 nondiabetic obese and 12 lean subjects. The postprandial measurement was repeated in 12 obese subjects after weight-loss.

RESULTS: In lean subjects, fasting decreased high-frequency (HF) power by 43% (P < 0·05) and decreased low-frequency (LF) power by 37% (P = 0·1), leaving the LF/HF ratio unchanged (P = 0·7). In the obese group, autonomic nervous system tone shifted to sympathetic dominance as the LF/HF increased from 0·61 to 1·14 (P = 0·03). After an average weight-loss of 13·8 kg in obese subjects, a trend for sympathetic dominance was found; the LF/HF ratio increased by 56% (P = 0·06).

CONCLUSION: Our data show that a 48-h fast leaves autonomic nervous system balance unaltered in lean subjects. In contrast, a 48-h fast, as well as weight-loss, induces sympathetic dominance in obese humans.


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