Dietary weight loss in people with severe obesity stabilizes neuropathy and improves symptomatology

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Dec;29(12):2108-2118. doi: 10.1002/oby.23246. Epub 2021 Nov 7.


Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of dietary weight loss on neuropathy outcomes in people with severe obesity.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of participants attending a medical weight-management program was followed. Weight loss was achieved with meal replacement of 800 kcal/d for 12 weeks and then transitioning to 1,200 to 1,500 kcal/d. The coprimary outcomes were changes in intraepidermal nerve fiber density (IENFD) at the distal leg and proximal thigh. Secondary outcomes included nerve conduction studies, Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument questionnaire and exam, Quality of Life in Neurological Disorders, and quantitative sensory testing.

Results: Among 131 baseline participants, 72 (mean [SD] age: 50.1 [10.5] years, 51.4% female) completed 2 years of follow-up. Participants lost 12.4 (11.8) kg. All metabolic syndrome components improved with the exception of blood pressure. IENFD in the distal leg (0.4 [3.3], p = 0.29), and proximal thigh (0.3 [6.3], p = 0.74) did not significantly change. Improvements were observed on the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument questionnaire, two Quality of Life in Neurological Disorders subdomains, and quantitative sensory testing cold threshold.

Conclusions: Dietary weight loss was associated with improvements in all metabolic parameters except blood pressure, and both IENFD outcomes remained stable after 2 years. Given that natural history studies reveal decreases in IENFD over time, dietary weight loss may halt this progression, but randomized controlled trials are needed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Obesity, Morbid* / complications
  • Obesity, Morbid* / therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Weight Loss