Neurological consequences of obesity

Lancet Neurol. 2017 Jun;16(6):465-477. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30084-4.


The high prevalence of obesity is associated with an enormous medical, social, and economic burden. The metabolic dysfunction, dyslipidaemia, and inflammation caused by obesity contribute to the development of a wide variety of disorders and effects on the nervous system. In the CNS, mild cognitive impairment can be attributed to obesity-induced alterations in hippocampal structure and function in some patients. Likewise, compromised hypothalamic function and subsequent defects in maintaining whole-body energy balance might be early events that contribute to weight gain and obesity development. In the peripheral nervous system, obesity-driven alterations in the autonomic nervous system prompt imbalances in sympathetic-parasympathetic activity, while alterations in the sensory-somatic nervous system underlie peripheral polyneuropathy, a common complication of diabetes. Pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery are promising interventions for people with obesity that can improve neurological function. However, lifestyle interventions via dietary changes and exercise are the preferred approach to combat obesity and reduce its associated health risks.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*