Regulation of obesity and insulin resistance by nitric oxide

Free Radic Biol Med. 2014 Aug:73:383-99. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.05.016. Epub 2014 May 28.


Obesity is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and has quickly become a worldwide pandemic with few tangible and safe treatment options. Although it is generally accepted that the primary cause of obesity is energy imbalance, i.e., the calories consumed are greater than are utilized, understanding how caloric balance is regulated has proven a challenge. Many "distal" causes of obesity, such as the structural environment, occupation, and social influences, are exceedingly difficult to change or manipulate. Hence, molecular processes and pathways more proximal to the origins of obesity-those that directly regulate energy metabolism or caloric intake-seem to be more feasible targets for therapy. In particular, nitric oxide (NO) is emerging as a central regulator of energy metabolism and body composition. NO bioavailability is decreased in animal models of diet-induced obesity and in obese and insulin-resistant patients, and increasing NO output has remarkable effects on obesity and insulin resistance. This review discusses the role of NO in regulating adiposity and insulin sensitivity and places its modes of action into context with the known causes and consequences of metabolic disease.

Keywords: Diabetes; Free radicals; Insulin resistance; Mitochondria; Nitric oxide; Obesity; eNOS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Body Composition
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Satiety Response / physiology


  • Nitric Oxide
  • NOS3 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III