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Obes Res. 1999 Jan;7(1):1-8.

Serum leptin and weight gain over 8 years in African American and Caucasian young adults.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55454, USA.



There is considerable interest in how to prevent weight gain in adulthood. Leptin, a peptide hormone expressed in adipose tissue, is believed to signal the central nervous system about the level of body fat stores, and thereby may control appetite. Little information exists on whether the serum leptin concentration influences long-term weight changes in the free-living population.


From an ongoing cohort study of young African American and white adults, we selected a sample of participants (n=492), stratified on sex, race, and weight changes over 8 years. Serum leptin was measured on stored specimens using a radioimmunoassay. Weight change was modeled in relation to baseline leptin concentrations.


Cross-sectionally, leptin concentration was associated positively with body mass index, negatively with physical activity level, and was higher in women than men. These variables explained 72% of the variance in serum leptin. Over the 8 years, the sample gained an average of 7.8 kg (standard deviation = 10.8). There was no evidence that 8-year weight change was associated with initial leptin concentration: 8-year weight change was only 0.5 kg less (95% confidence interval =-1.8 to 0.8, p = 0.47) per each 10 ng/ mL increment (approximately one standard deviation) of baseline leptin. In contrast, leptin change correlated highly (r=0.62) with weight change.


Our data corroborate evidence that adiposity determines leptin levels but do not support the hypothesis that leptin deficiency plays an important role in obesity in the general population.

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