Obesity and peripheral neuropathy risk: a dangerous liaison

J Peripher Nerv Syst. 2005 Dec;10(4):354-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1085-9489.2005.00047.x.


This study investigates motor (MNCS) and sensory (SNCS) nerve conduction in a sample of non-diabetic obese people without symptoms suggestive of neuropathy and looks for a possible metabolic alteration. Twenty-one patients and 20 age-matched controls underwent (a) MNCS (median, ulnar, peroneal, and tibial) and SNCS (median, ulnar, and sural); (b) quantitative sensory testing to measure sensory threshold for vibration, warm and cold sensation (WS-CS), heat and cold-induced pain; and (c) blood sample analysis to evaluate glucose and insulin levels and calculate the quantitative insulin-sensitivity check index (QUICKI). The obese group showed significantly decreased compound muscle action potential amplitude of tibial and peroneal nerves and decreased sensory action potential amplitude of all nerves. Most of the sensory thresholds were altered in obese patients. Insulin serum levels were significantly increased while QUICKI decreased in obese patients. WS and CS from the index and little fingers and WS from the big toe significantly correlated with QUICKI. Thermal and pain thresholds from the index and thermal thresholds from the little finger correlated with QUICKI values. The non-diabetic obese patients showed a subclinical involvement of different diameter sensory fibers. Such impairment was related to hyperinsulinemia and insulin sensitivity. The increase in sensory threshold of obese patients might be due to a metabolic alteration, potentially leading to a future clinical neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / physiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cold Temperature
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction / physiology*
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / blood
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Risk*
  • Sensory Thresholds / classification
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / radiation effects
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Blood Glucose