BACKGROUND Obesity-associated activation of sympathetic nervous outflow is well documented, whereas involvement of dysregulated adrenomedullary hormonal function in obesity is less clear. This study assessed relationships of sympathoadrenal function with indices of obesity and influences of circulating catecholamines on body mass. METHODS Anthropometric and clinical data along with plasma and 24-h urine samples were collected from 590 volunteers and 1368 patients tested for phaeochromocytoma and paraganglioma (PPGL), among whom tumours were diagnosed in 210 individuals. RESULTS Among patients tested for PPGL, those with tumours less often had a body mass index (BMI) above 30 kg/m (12 vs. 31%) and more often a BMI under 25 kg/m (56 vs. 32%) than those without tumours (P < 0.0001). Urinary outputs of catecholamines in patients with PPGL were negatively related to BMI (r = -0.175, P = 0.0133). Post-operative weight gain (P < 0.0001) after resection of PPGL was positively related to presurgical tumoural catecholamine output (r = 0.257, P = 0.0101). Higher BMI in men and women and percent body fat in women of the volunteer group were associated with lower plasma concentrations and urinary outputs of adrenaline and metanephrine, the former indicating obesity-related reduced adrenaline secretion and the latter obesity-related reduced adrenomedullary adrenaline stores. Daytime activity was associated with substantial increases in urinary adrenaline and noradrenaline excretion, with blunted responses in obese subjects. CONCLUSIONS The findings in patients with PPGL support an influence of high circulating catecholamines on body weight. Additional associations of adrenomedullary dysfunction with obesity raise the possibility of a permissive influence of the adrenal medulla on the regulation of body weight.