Overweight and sympathetic overactivity in black Americans

Nicola I. Abate, Yasser H. Mansour, Meryem Tuncel, Debbie Arbique, Bahman Chavoshan, Ali Kizilbash, Temple Howell-Stampley, Wanpen Vongpatanasin, Ronald G. Victor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


A large body of clinical investigation implicates an important role for the sympathetic nervous system in linking obesity with hypertension. However, the experimental support for this hypothesis is derived from strictly white cohorts. The goal of this study was to determine whether being overweight begets sympathetic overactivity in black Americans, the ethnic minority at highest risk for hypertension. We recorded postganglionic sympathetic nerve discharge with microelectrodes in muscle nerve fascicles of the peroneal nerve in 92 normotensive young adult black men and women within a wide range of body mass index. The same experiments were performed in a control group of 45 normotensive white men and women of similar ages and body mass indices. The major new findings are 2-fold. First, in young, normotensive, overtly healthy black women, being overweight begets sympathetic overactivity (r=0.45, P=0.0009), a putative intermediate phenotype for incident hypertension. Second, in black men, sympathetic nerve discharge is dissociated from body mass index (r=0.03, P=NS). This dissociation is explained in part by a 20% to 40% higher rate of sympathetic nerve discharge in lean black men compared with lean white men and lean black and white women (28±3 versus 18±2, 21±2, and 17±2 bursts/min, respectively; P<0.05). Sympathetic nerve discharge in lean black men is comparable to that of overweight black men and women as well as white men and women. These data provide the first microneurographic evidence for tonic central sympathetic overactivity in blacks, both adiposity-related sympathetic overactivity in black women and adiposity-independent sympathetic overactivity in black men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-383
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Blacks
  • Blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Overweight and sympathetic overactivity in black Americans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this