Exploring the Obesity Paradox in A Murine Model of Sepsis: Improved Survival Despite Increased Organ Injury in Obese Mice

Shock. 2022 Jan 1;57(1):151-159. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000001856.


Despite the known deleterious effects of obesity, clinical data indicate that overweight or obese patients experience higher rates of sepsis survival compared to normal and underweight patients; a phenomenon called the obesity paradox. Results from preclinical sepsis studies have not been able to replicate these findings. The objective of this study was to test the existence of the obesity paradox in a murine model of cecal slurry (CS)-induced sepsis with insulin-resistant diet-induced obese mice. Male C57BL/6 mice were provided high-fat (HFD) or low-fat (LFD) diets for 20 weeks. HFD-fed mice experienced higher rates of survival compared to LFD-fed mice after septic challenge induced by CS injection (66% vs. 25%, P = 0.01, survival assessed for 14 days). Despite the survival advantage, HFD-fed mice had higher rates of positive bacterial cultures and increased markers of kidney injury. Circulating levels of IL-6, IL-1β, TNFα, and IL-23 were equivalent 24 h after CS-injection; however, IL-17A was uniquely increased in HFD-fed mice. While LFD-fed mice maintained euglycemia, HFD-fed mice were hyperglycemic 6 and 12 h after CS-injection. Stable isotope resolved metabolomics analysis of liver tissue showed diverging pathways of glucose utilization during sepsis, with LFD-fed mice significantly upregulating glycolytic activity and HFD-fed mice decreasing glucose entry into the TCA cycle. This murine study corroborates clinical data that obesity confers a survival benefit in sepsis, albeit at the expense of more significant organ injury. The mechanisms promoting survival in the obese remain unknown; however, this model appears to be well-poised to begin answering this question. Differences in glucose utilization are a novel target to investigate this paradox.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / blood
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Interleukins / blood
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese*
  • Sepsis / blood
  • Sepsis / mortality*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha