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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1995 Mar;78(3):802-6.

Sympathetic nervous system activity, body fatness, and body fat distribution in younger and older males.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Maryland 21201, USA.


It was hypothesized that an increase in total and central body fatness is related to higher sympathetic nervous system activity (SNSA) in older men. Resting SNSA was measured from norepinephrine (NE) kinetics in 69 younger (18-36 yr) and 69 healthy older men (55-80 yr). Body fat distribution was estimated from the waist circumference, body composition from underwater weighing, peak oxygen consumption from a treadmill test to exhaustion, and dietary intake from food diaries. Plasma NE concentrations were 41% higher (P < 0.001) in older men due to a 27% increase (P < 0.001) in NE appearance rate and a tendency for a lower NE clearance rate (P = 0.08). NE appearance rate was higher in individuals of both age groups who exhibited a greater waist circumference and body fatness (range of r values 0.49-0.69; P < 0.01). The waist circumference, and not age, was the strongest predictor of the increase in NE appearance rate in older men. Statistically controlling for the waist circumference or body fatness diminished age-related differences in NE concentrations and in NE appearance rate. These findings suggest that an accumulation of total and central body fat is associated with higher levels of SNSA in older males.

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