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Metabolism. 2001 Feb;50(2):135-43.

Urinary epinephrine and norepinephrine interrelations with obesity, insulin, and the metabolic syndrome in Hong Kong Chinese.

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Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories.


The metabolic syndrome is characterized by a clustering of cardiovascular risk factors including type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and obesity. Elevated plasma insulin and urinary norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and reduced urinary epinephrine (adrenaline) excretion are associated with obesity in Caucasian populations. We examined the interrelationships between obesity, plasma insulin, and urinary catecholamine excretion in Chinese subjects with various components of the metabolic syndrome. A total of 577 Chinese subjects (aged 38 +/- 10 years; 68% with type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, and/or albuminuria and 32% healthy subjects) were studied, all of whom had a plasma creatinine less than 150 micromol/L. The blood pressure, height, weight, waist and hip circumference, and fasting plasma glucose, insulin, lipid, and creatinine levels were measured. A 24-hour urine sample was collected for measurement of albumin and catecholamine excretion. The body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were used as measures of general and central obesity, respectively. The insulin resistance index was estimated by the calculated product of fasting plasma insulin and glucose concentrations. Patients with an increasing number of components of the metabolic syndrome (type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, and/or albuminuria) were more obese, hyperglycemic, dyslipidemic, and albuminuric and had higher blood pressure, plasma insulin, insulin resistance indices, and 24-hour urinary norepinephrine excretion but lower urinary epinephrine output (all P < .005). Increasing quintiles of BMI in the whole population or waist circumference in both sexes were associated with increasing trends for adverse lipid profiles, plasma insulin, insulin resistance indices, and urinary norepinephrine excretion but a decreasing trend for urinary epinephrine output (all P < .001). There were close associations between age, obesity, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, lipid, insulin, insulin resistance indices, and urinary catecholamine excretion. Using stepwise multiple regression analysis (all P < .001), 34% of the variability of the BMI and 45% of that of the waist circumference were independently related to gender (waist higher in males and BMI higher in females), increased plasma insulin, triglyceride, and urinary norepinephrine excretion, and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and urinary epinephrine output. In Chinese subjects with different manifestations of the metabolic syndrome, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, elevated norepinephrine, and reduced epinephrine excretion were closely associated with general and central obesity. Based on these findings, we postulate that complex interactions between the insulin and sympathoadrenal systems may lead to the development of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

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