BACKGROUND: There is evidence that the brain's energy status is lowered in obesity despite of chronic hypercaloric nutrition. The underlying mechanisms are unknown. We hypothesized that the brain of obese people does not appropriately generate energy in response to a hypercaloric supply.

METHODS: Glucose was intravenously infused in 17 normal weights and 13 obese participants until blood glucose concentrations reached the postprandial levels of 7 mmol/L and 10 mmol/L. Changes in cerebral adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PCr) content were measured by 31phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy and stress hormonal measures regulating glucose homeostasis were monitored. Because vitamin C is crucial for a proper neuronal energy synthesis we determined circulating concentrations during the experimental testing.

RESULTS: Cerebral high-energy phosphates were increased at blood glucose levels of 7 mmol/L in normal weights, which was completely missing in the obese. Brain energy content moderately raised only at blood glucose levels of 10 mmol/L in obese participants. Vitamin C concentrations generally correlated with the brain energy content at blood glucose concentrations of 7 mmol/L.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate an inefficient cerebral energy gain upon a glucose load in obese men, which may result from a dysfunctional glucose transport across the blood-brain barrier or a downregulated energy synthesis in mitochondrial oxidation processes. Our finding offers an explanation for the chronic neuroenergetic deficiency and respectively missing satiety perception in obesity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMetabolism: Clinical and Experimental
Pages (from-to)90-96
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01.08.2018

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-09 Biological Psychiatry


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