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Obes Res. 2000 Nov;8(8):543-52.

Percent body fat and lean mass explain the gender difference in leptin: analysis and interpretation of leptin in Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults.

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Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, USA.



To reassess the relationship between body fat and fasting leptin concentrations comparing plasma vs. serum assessments of leptin; ratios vs. regression adjustment for body composition; fat and lean mass vs. percent body fat; and gender-, ethnic-, and age-related variations.


Subjects included 766 adults from the nondiabetic cohort of the San Luis Valley Diabetes Study examined at follow up (1997 to 1998). Body composition was determined by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Leptin concentrations were determined after an overnight fast.


Fasting serum and plasma assessments of leptin were correlated with percent body fat to the same degree. Women had significantly higher serum leptin concentrations than men when leptin concentrations were divided by body mass index, fat mass in kilograms or percent body fat. The methodological problem inherent in interpreting these ratio measures is pictorially demonstrated. In regression analysis, fat mass alone did not explain the gender difference. However, lean body mass was inversely related to leptin concentrations (p < 0.0001) and explained 71% of the gender difference at a given fat mass. Percent body fat explained all of the gender difference in leptin concentrations in both Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Similar to findings about gender differences, ethnic- and age-related variations in the leptin-body fat association were minimized when percent body fat was employed as the body fat measure.


Regression analysis and percent body fat measured with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry are recommended when assessing the relationship between leptin and body fat. Gender differences in leptin concentrations were accounted for by percent body fat in free living (no diet control), Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults.

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