The sympathetic nervous system responds to changes in caloric intake; caloric restriction decreases and carbohydrate administration increases sympathetic nervous system activity in animals and man. Insulin may be a major link between changes in dietary intake and changes in central sympathetic outflow. Caloric restriction reduces, and carbohydrate administration increases blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats, changes consistent with a primary effect of caloric intake on sympathetic nervous system activity. Stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system by overfeeding may contribute to the development and maintenance of hypertension in biologically-predisposed animals and man. The association of obesity and hypertension may reflect chronic overfeeding, although diet-induced changes in sympathetic nervous system activity may affect blood pressure in non-obese individuals as well.
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