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Changes of autonomic cardiac profile after a 3-week integrated body weight reduction program in severely obese patients


The autonomic control of the heart is abnormal in obese subjects due to a prevalence of sympathetic over parasympathetic limb of the autonomic balance. We evaluated the effects of a short-term (3 weeks) integrated body weight reduction program (consisting of energy restricted diet and high-intensity exercise training) on heart rate variability (HRV) in severely obese, normotensive patients. The HRV was evaluated both in the time and frequency domain over a 18-hour Holter recording period obtained before and at the end of the third week. Three-week body weight reduction program reduced BMI (from 41.4±4.6 to 39.5±4.3 kg/m2, −4.6%, p<0.0001) and heart rate (from 77.8±8.6 to 73.6±8.7 b/min, p=0.0003). Significant changes in the autonomic profile were observed both in the time and frequency domain (SD of RR interval, SDRR: +16.1%; mean squared successive difference: (MSSD) +16.7%; percentage of RR intervals differing more than 50 msec from the preceding one, pNN50: +31.8%; low frequency oscillation, LF: +17.1%; high frequency oscillation, HF: ±18.2%). In conclusion, this study demonstrates that a short-term, integrated body weight reduction program is able to favorably modify the autonomic profile in a population of normotensive, severely obese subjects. The reduction of heart rate and the increase in parasympathetic activity may consistently contribute to a reduction of the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and of sudden cardiac death, still high in this patients’ group.

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Correspondence to Dr. Alessandro Sartorio.

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Facchini, M., Malfatto, G., Sala, L. et al. Changes of autonomic cardiac profile after a 3-week integrated body weight reduction program in severely obese patients. J Endocrinol Invest 26, 138–142 (2003).

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  • Obesity
  • autonomic nervous system
  • physical training
  • weight reduction
  • cardiovascular risk