Leptin, the product of the ob gene, is a hormone secreted by adipocytes that is known to decrease food intake and increase energy expenditure in ob/ob mice. In humans, variants in the OB gene have not been detected and very little is known about the action of leptin on food intake and energy expenditure, although circulating leptin concentrations are positively correlated to body fat stores. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between fasting plasma leptin concentrations and energy expenditure in 123 5-yr-old Pima Indian children (67 males/76 females). Body composition was assessed by isotopic water dilution (18O) whereas total energy expenditure (TEE) and resting metabolic rate (RMR) were measured using doubly labeled water and indirect calorimetry, respectively. The physical activity level was calculated as the ratio of TEE:RMR. Plasma leptin concentrations were positively correlated to percent body fat (r = 0.84, P < 0.0001), but were similar in boys and girls after adjusting for percent body fat. Most importantly, we found that, independent of the percentage of body fat, plasma leptin concentrations correlated with TEE (in absolute values, r = 0.37, P < 0.0001, or adjusted for body size r = 0.42; P < 0.0001) and with physical activity level (r = 0.26, P < 0.01), but not RMR. These results suggest that, as in animal models, leptin plays a role in energy expenditure in humans.


A D Salbe, M Nicolson, E Ravussin


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