Carbohydrate intake stimulates sympathetic nervous system activity in lean subjects, whereas in obese subjects, the results have been inconsistent. The aim of this study was to directly measure sympathetic neural outflow to skeletal muscle in response to a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in 15 Pima Indian and 16 Caucasian men, matched for body fat and age, but covering a large range of body weight (57–113 kg) and body fat (4–41%). Fasting muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) correlated positively with body fat (r = 0.73; P = 0.001) in Caucasians but not in Pima Indians, whereas the increase in MSNA during the OGTT correlated negatively with the percentage of body fat (r = −0.38, P = 0.03) independently of race. In each subject, the increase in MSNA over time correlated positively with the increase in plasma insulin levels, but the slopes of these relationships were inversely related to the percentage of body fat (r = −0.52, P = 0.003) independently of race. In conclusion, obesity is associated with a higher fasting sympathetic neural outflow to muscle but a blunted increase in response to an oral glucose load despite a larger increase in plasma insulin levels. This blunted response may represent another feature of the obesity/insulin resistance syndrome.

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