Link between obesity and high blood pressure found

Professor Michael Cowley

Professor Michael Cowley

Researchers have discovered the link between obesity and high blood pressure. 

In a ground-breaking study published today in Cell, a research team - led by Monash University Professor Michael Cowley - have discovered the link between obesity and hypertension. 

The researchers from Monash, Warwick, Cambridge and several American universities have discovered that the hormone leptin – which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body – also drives the increase in blood pressure that occurs with weight gain. 

Being obese or overweight is a major risk factor for the development of elevated blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. But it has not been known how obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, making it difficult to develop evidence-based therapies for obesity, hypertension and heart disease.

Professor Cowley, Director of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute (MODI) said: “This study shows that a hormone secreted by fat (leptin) increases blood pressure, and explains the mechanism of the known link between obesity and high blood pressure.”

“Our data suggest that pharmacological approaches based on altering the effect of leptin in the dorsomedial hypothalamic region of the brain, could potentially represent a therapeutic target for the treatment of obesity induced hypertension and potentially could be exploited to alleviate the incidence of obesity induced cardiovascular diseases,” he said. 

The researchers are now investigating whether blocking the leptin receptor may be a way to reduce the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases in obesity.