Heart rate variability is reduced in underweight and overweight healthy adult women

Antonio Ivano Triggiani, Anna Valenzano, Michela Anna Pia Ciliberti, Fiorenzo Moscatelli, Stefano Villani, Marcellino Monda, Giovanni Messina, Antonio Federici, Claudio Babiloni, Giuseppe Cibelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heart rate variability (HRV) is altered in obese subjects, but whether this is true also in underweight (UW) subjects is still under debate. We investigated the HRV profile in a sample of healthy adult women and its association with adiposity. Five-minute resting state electrocardiographic activity was recorded in 69 subjects grouped according to their body mass index, [23 normal weight (NW), 23 overweight/obese (OW) and 23 UW). Body fat mass (FM) was measured by bio-impedance. Frequency- and time-domain analyses were performed. Compared to NW, UW and OW subjects showed a significant decrease in HRV indices, as revealed by spectral analysis. No differences were observed between UW and OW subjects. A second-order polynomial regression unveiled an inverted U-shaped relationship between FM extent and HRV indices. A decrease of HRV indices was associated with changes in FM extent, proving that in UW and OW subjects, the adaptive flexibility of autonomic cardiac function was reduced. These findings provide important clues to guide future studies addressed to determine how changes in adiposity and autonomic cardiac function may contribute to health risk.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Bioimpedance analysis
  • Body mass index
  • Heart rate variability
  • Underweight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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