Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Food Intake: Effect of Body Mass Index

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


Animal research suggests that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is associated with weight loss and decreased appetite. Results from human studies are mixed; some suggest that VNS affects weight whereas others do not, and it is unclear how VNS affects eating behaviors. Baseline body mass index (BMI) and VNS device settings may moderate the effects of VNS on caloric intake. This study investigates the association among BMI, VNS device settings, and caloric intake of highly palatable foods during VNS on versus VNS off sessions in 16 adult patients (62.5% female; BMI mean = 29.11 +/- 6.65) using VNS therapy for either epilepsy or depression. Participants attended 2 experimental sessions (VNS on versus off) where they were presented with 4 preferred snack foods totaling 1600 calories. At the start of the session, they either had their VNS devices turned off or left on. Caloric intake was calculated by weighing foods before and after each session. BMI category (overweight/obese and lean) was the between group factor in the analysis. After controlling for covariates, an interaction of condition and BMI category (P = .03) was found. There was an interaction of condition and device output current (P = .05) and a trend toward an interaction of condition and device on time (P = .07). Excess weight may impact how neurobiological signals from the vagus nerve affect appetite and eating. Future research is needed to further elucidate this relationship.

DOI of Published Version



J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2014 Mar 2;8(3):590-595. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of diabetes science and technology

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID