Neurologic disorders associated with obesity

Richard P Knudsen MD CNP (

Dr. Knudsen of the Pacific Sleep Tech in Aiea, Hawaii has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Peter J Koehler MD PhD, editor. (

Dr. Koehler of Maastricht University has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Originally released February 17, 2020; last updated January 11, 2021; expires January 11, 2024


The “globesity” (global obesity) pandemic is a severe threat to human health. Obesity is creating a challenging myriad of secondary and associated medical maladies involving various organ systems. Our species, given multiple factors, is further trending toward being swathed in adiposity. This has the associated, identifiable array of particularly elicited neurologic disorders discussed in this article.

Key points


• Obesity, including morbid obesity, is common and will remain common. Obesity begets obesity.


• The modern society's environment is obesogenic.


• There is a multitude of medical disorders that clearly stem from corpulence.


• Certain specific neurologic abnormalities can be linked to obesity.


• The neuropathologic entities reviewed in this manuscript that are related to obesity include: multiple sclerosis, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, meralgia paresthetica, peripheral polyneuropathy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, stroke and dementia via obstructive sleep apnea, and obesity hypoventilation syndrome.


• Bariatric surgery is reviewed as a sound option toward management of severe obesity with comorbidities.

Historical note and terminology

Human fat, historically, had purported medicinal value. The product, Axungia hominis, was used in pharmaceuticals such as ointments aimed at the treatment of bone pain, toothache, and gout. Human fat was considered a panacea for cachexia and an analgesic for rheumatism. It had a reputation as “magical.” Executioners in Germany recovered the fat, and it was sold under the trade name Humanol. It was an injectable targeting scar treatment and wound revisions and infections. Human fat fell from favor after fat embolisms were perceived as complications. It was later used to grease railways and was applied to bells to achieve better sound.

The human race has gone from revering fatness as a sign of affluence to now recognizing obesity as a global chronic public health care crisis of grand scale. Addressing the trend toward girth and managing its consequences, including medical and economic ramifications, will be an ongoing world-wide challenge. Alarmingly, over 40% of people in the United States are considered obese (Mullins et al 2020).

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