Obesity, kidney dysfunction and hypertension: mechanistic links

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2019 Jun;15(6):367-385. doi: 10.1038/s41581-019-0145-4.


Excessive adiposity raises blood pressure and accounts for 65-75% of primary hypertension, which is a major driver of cardiovascular and kidney diseases. In obesity, abnormal kidney function and associated increases in tubular sodium reabsorption initiate hypertension, which is often mild before the development of target organ injury. Factors that contribute to increased sodium reabsorption in obesity include kidney compression by visceral, perirenal and renal sinus fat; increased renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA); increased levels of anti-natriuretic hormones, such as angiotensin II and aldosterone; and adipokines, particularly leptin. The renal and neurohormonal pathways of obesity and hypertension are intertwined. For example, leptin increases RSNA by stimulating the central nervous system proopiomelanocortin-melanocortin 4 receptor pathway, and kidney compression and RSNA contribute to renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system activation. Glucocorticoids and/or oxidative stress may also contribute to mineralocorticoid receptor activation in obesity. Prolonged obesity and progressive renal injury often lead to the development of treatment-resistant hypertension. Patient management therefore often requires multiple antihypertensive drugs and concurrent treatment of dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance, diabetes and inflammation. If more effective strategies for the prevention and control of obesity are not developed, cardiorenal, metabolic and other obesity-associated diseases could overwhelm health-care systems in the future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Aldosterone / metabolism
  • Angiotensin II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / metabolism*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Kidney / innervation
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / metabolism
  • Renal Reabsorption / physiology
  • Renin / metabolism
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*


  • Adipokines
  • Leptin
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid
  • Angiotensin II
  • Aldosterone
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • Sodium
  • Renin