Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function and the metabolic syndrome X of obesity

CNS Spectr. 2001 Jul;6(7):581-6, 589. doi: 10.1017/s1092852900002121.


Obesity has negative health consequences related to fat distribution, particularly the central or visceral accumulation of fat. The major complications associated with visceral obesity, termed the "Metabolic Syndrome of Obesity," or "Syndrome X," are type II diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. As with certain mood disorders, the syndrome may be a consequence of neuroendocrine perturbations typically associated with chronic stress. Our work with bonnet macaque monkeys provides an animal model for the relationship between early stress, behavioral and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation, and Syndrome X. During their infant's first half-year, mothers face a variable foraging demand (VFD), in which ample food varies unpredictably in the difficulty of its acquisition, and the offspring show persistent abnormalities in systems known to modulate stress and affective regulation. Early work on the bonnet macaque noted the emergence of a sample of spontaneously obese subjects as they matured. Using the VFD model, the current study showed that there was a clear relationship between early cerebrospinal fluid corticotropin-releasing factor levels and subsequently measured body mass index, supporting the hypotheses regarding the interactive roles of early experience and HPA axis dysregulation in the ontogeny of both metabolic and mood disorders.