1. Sympatho-adrenal activity was measured after the consumption of a 3.15 MJ mixed meal. Whole-body noradrenaline spillover rates, forearm plasma noradrenaline spillover and adrenaline secretion rates were derived using isotope dilution methodology. Heart rate and blood pressure spectral analysis measurements were also made. The relation of sympatho-adrenal activity to thermogenic and cardiovascular events was studied. Sympathetic nervous and thermogenic responses were measured for 120 min after the single 3.15 MJ meal and compared with those after three 1.05 MJ meals, given 30 min apart.

2. Whole-body and forearm plasma noradrenaline spillover, and the 0.1 Hz component of systolic pressure power all increased significantly postprandially, while the 0.1 Hz component of heart rate variability, an indirect index of cardiac sympathetic nervous activity, remained unaltered. Adrenaline secretion was unaltered postprandially. Whole-body plasma noradrenaline spillover and thermogenesis during the 120 min postprandial period were 37% and 36% higher after the single meal as compared with the multiple meals, although this was not statistically significant.

3. The sympathetic neural responses were delayed in relation to peak plasma insulin levels and sustained in the face of declining insulin levels. Energy expenditure increased significantly postprandially, but there was no direct quantitative relationship to plasma noradrenaline spillover. Forearm oxygen consumption did not increase postprandially despite significant increases in regional noradrenaline spillover. Thus, no close relation was demonstrated between postprandial sympathetic nervous activation and either insulin secretion or thermogenesis.

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