Metabolic syndrome as a risk factor for neurological disorders

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Mar;69(5):741-62. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0840-1. Epub 2011 Oct 15.


The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of common pathologies: abdominal obesity linked to an excess of visceral fat, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and hypertension. At the molecular level, metabolic syndrome is accompanied not only by dysregulation in the expression of adipokines (cytokines and chemokines), but also by alterations in levels of leptin, a peptide hormone released by white adipose tissue. These changes modulate immune response and inflammation that lead to alterations in the hypothalamic 'bodyweight/appetite/satiety set point,' resulting in the initiation and development of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for neurological disorders such as stroke, depression and Alzheimer's disease. The molecular mechanism underlying the mirror relationship between metabolic syndrome and neurological disorders is not fully understood. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that all cellular and biochemical alterations observed in metabolic syndrome like impairment of endothelial cell function, abnormality in essential fatty acid metabolism and alterations in lipid mediators along with abnormal insulin/leptin signaling may represent a pathological bridge between metabolic syndrome and neurological disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease and depression. The purpose of this review is not only to describe the involvement of brain in the pathogenesis of metabolic syndrome, but also to link the pathogenesis of metabolic syndrome with neurochemical changes in stroke, Alzheimer's disease and depression to a wider audience of neuroscientists with the hope that this discussion will initiate more studies on the relationship between metabolic syndrome and neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / pathology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Adipokines
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Ceramides
  • Insulin
  • Leptin