Unraveling the mechanisms responsible for the comorbidity between metabolic syndrome and mental health disorders

Elizabeth K. Nousen, Juliana G. Franco, Elinor L. Sullivan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    74 Scopus citations


    The increased prevalence and high comorbidity of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and mental health disorders (MHDs) have prompted investigation into the potential contributing mechanisms. There is a bidirectional association between MetS and MHDs including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. Medication side effects and social repercussions are contributing environmental factors, but there are a number of shared underlying neurological and physiological mechanisms that explain the high comorbidity between these two disorders. Inflammation is a state shared by both disorders, and it contributes to disruptions of neuroregulatory systems (including the serotonergic, dopaminergic, and neuropeptide Y systems) as well as dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. MetS in pregnant women also exposes the developing fetal brain to inflammatory factors that predispose the offspring to MetS and psychopathologies. Due to the shared nature of these conditions, treatment should address aspects of both mental health and metabolic disorders. Additionally, interventions that can interrupt the transfer of increased risk of the disorders to the next generation need to be developed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)254-266
    Number of pages13
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Mar 2014


    • Bipolar disorder
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Metabolic syndrome
    • Obesity
    • Schizophrenia

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
    • Endocrinology
    • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
    • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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