Chronic Sympathetic Attenuation and Energy Metabolism in Autonomic Failure
The sympathetic nervous system regulates thermogenesis and energy homeostasis in humans. When activated it increases energy expenditure, particularly resting energy expenditure. Most human studies used acute infusion of β-blockers as a model to eliminate sympathetic stimulation and to examine the contribution of the sympathetic nervous system to energy metabolism and balance. Clinically, however, it is also important to assess the effect of chronic sympathetic attenuation on energy metabolism. In this context, we hypothesized that resting energy expenditure is decreased in patients with autonomic failure who, by definition, have low sympathetic tone. We measured 24-hour energy expenditure using whole-room indirect calorimeter in 10 adults with chronic autonomic failure (6 women; age, 64.9±9.1 years; body mass index, 25.2±4.4 kg/m2) and 15 sedentary healthy controls of similar age and body composition (8 women; age, 63.1±4.0 years; body mass index, 24.4±3.9 kg/m2). In 4 patients, we eliminated residual sympathetic activity with the ganglionic blocker trimethaphan. We found that, after adjusting for body composition, resting energy expenditure did not differ between patients with autonomic failure and healthy controls. However, resting energy expenditure significantly decreased when residual sympathetic activity was eliminated. Our findings suggest that sympathetic tonic support of resting energy expenditure is preserved, at least in part, in pathophysiological models of chronic sympathetic attenuation.
- Received December 22, 2011.
- Revision received January 9, 2012.
- Accepted March 11, 2012.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.