Epinephrine: Ally or enemy in the fight against metabolic issues?

Our nervous system controls all of our bodily processes, including metabolism.  Communication within this system is vital to maintaining balance within the body and can be disrupted by metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Figure 1. Waist size, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels are all risk factors of metabolic syndrome.  Patients with metabolic syndrome typically have at least three of these risk factors. (Adapted from NIH)

Figure 1. Waist size, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels are all risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Patients with metabolic syndrome typically have at least three of these risk factors. (Adapted from NIH)

According to the American Heart Association, more than 47 million Americans have metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome is defined as a combination of conditions which include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The combination of these conditions significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (Figure 1).

Epinephrine correlations with metabolic syndrome

Healthy adrenal function, specifically healthy epinephrine levels can be protective against metabolic syndrome.  Ziegler and colleagues (2012) point out that low epinephrine production can be correlated with obesity in their recent publication on metabolic syndrome.

Historically, excess epinephrine has been viewed as part of the problem for individuals experiencing metabolic disturbances leading to hypertension and insulin resistance.  Ziegler, et al. note that the impacts of epinephrine on metabolism are much different in the short- and long-term.  The short-term effects of epinephrine are to raise systolic blood pressure and blood glucose.  Longer-term consequences of beta2 receptor stimulation by epinephrine however, are decreased peripheral vascular resistance, lower exercise blood pressure, and enhanced insulin sensitivity.

Our nervous system plays a major role in metabolic syndrome and epinephrine is not the only neurotransmitter involved.  Look for a forthcoming post detailing the effects norepinephrine has on stress, insulin release, and hyperglycemia.

Guest author: Tricia Walz is a member of the Clinical Support & Education Department at NeuroScience, Inc. and the resident expert in metabolic issues.

References
 Baker, RG., et al. (2011). NF-κB, Inflammation, and Metabolic Disease. Cell Metab. 13(1): 11-22.
 Despres, JP., et al. (2008). Abdominal Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome: Contribution to Global Cardiometabolic Risk. Arterioscler Thromb Biol. 28: 1039-49.
 Kyrou, I., Tsigos, C. (2007). Stress Mechanisms and Metabolic Complications. Horm Metab Res. 39(6):430-8.
 Ziegler, MG. (2012). Epinephrine and the Metabolic Syndrome. Curr Hypertens Rep. 14(1):1-7.
 http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms/
 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolic%20syndrome/DS00522
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