The journal of nutrition, health & aging

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 300–302 | Cite as

Body mass index is related to autonomic nervous system activity as measured by heart rate variability — A replication using short term measurements

  • Julian KoenigEmail author
  • M. N. Jarczok
  • M. Warth
  • R. J. Ellis
  • C. Bach
  • T. K. Hillecke
  • J. F. Thayer



The present analysis is a replication of previous findings presenting first evidence of an association between body mass index (BMI) and autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity as measured by heart rate variability (HRV), in healthy non-obese adults.


A total of fifty-nine apparently healthy male (M) and female (F) individuals (M/F = 15/44) were included in the trial. HRV data for analysis was derived from 5 minutes of baseline recordings, while the subject was sitting on a comfortable chair. Subjects’ body measures (weight and height) were taken and BMI was obtained according to common calculation (kg/m2).


BMI was inversely related to pNN50 and RMSSD components of HRV. Statistically significant differences between stratified groups (BMI<20, BMI 20–25, BMI >25) only occurred for analysis of pNN50 components. The pNN50 components and RMSSD are strongly associated with cardiac vagal influence, and thus represents parasympathetic activity.


The present data supports previous findings, that sympatho-vagal balance is related to BMI in non-obese, healthy individuals, providing evidence for a prominent role of the vagus nerve in the modulation of the energy expenditure of the human organism. Furthermore, this relation can be observed in short term recordings of HRV of 5 minutes in length.

Key words

Autonomic nervous system body mass index vagus nerve HRV 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Karason K, Molgaard H, Wikstrand J, Sjöström L. Heart rate variability in obesity and the effect of weight loss. Am J Cardiol 1999;83:1242–1247PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Martini G, Riva P, Rabbia F, Molini V, Ferrero GB, Cerutti F, et al. Heart rate variability in childhood obesity. Clin Auton Res 2001;11:87–91PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kim JA, Park YG, Cho KH, Hong MH, Han HC, Choi YS, et al. Heart rate variability and obesity indices: emphasis on the response to noise and standing. J Am Board Fam Pract 2005;18:97–103PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Molfino A, Fiorentini A, Tubani L, Martuscelli M, Rossi Fanelli F, Laviano A. Body mass index is related to autonomic nervous system activity as measured by heart rate variability. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009;63:1263–1265PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Tarvainen MP, Niskanen JP, Lipponen JA, Ranta-aho PO, Karjalainen PA. Kubios HRV — A Software for Advanced Heart Rate Variability Analysis. IFMBE Proceedings 2009;22:1022–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Casadei B, Cochrane S, Johnston J, Conway J, Sleight P. Pitfalls in the interpretation of spectral analysis of the heart rate variability during exercise in humans. Acta Physiol Scand 1995;153:125–131PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Moak JP, Goldstein DS, Eldadah BA, Saleem A, Holmes C, Pechnik S, et al. Supine low frequency power of heart rate variability reflects baroreflex function, not cardiac sympathetic innervation. Cleve Clin J Med 2009;76:51–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Goldstein DS, Bentho O, Park MY, Sharabi Y. Low-frequency power of heart rate variability is not a measure of cardiac sympathetic tone but may be a measure of modulation of cardiac autonomic outflows by baroreflexes. Exp Physiol 2011;96:1255–1261PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jarczok MN, Li J, Mauss D, Fischer JE, Thayer JF. Heart Rate Variability is Associated with Glycemie Status After Controlling for Components of the Metabolic Syndrome. Int J Card 2012; doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2012.02.002Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jarczok MN, Koenig J, Schuster AK, Thayer JF, Fischer JE. Nighttime heart rate variability, overnight urinary norepinephrine, and glycemie status in apparently healthy human adults. Int J Card 2013; doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.04.147Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Serdi and Springer-Verlag France 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julian Koenig
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • M. N. Jarczok
    • 2
  • M. Warth
    • 1
  • R. J. Ellis
    • 3
  • C. Bach
    • 1
  • T. K. Hillecke
    • 1
  • J. F. Thayer
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Therapeutic SciencesSRH University HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Social and Preventive Medicine, Mannheim Medical FacultyHeidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  5. 5.SRH University HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations