ISH NIA PS 02-10 Serum leptin predicts weight gain and occurrence of obesity in Chinese children: a 6-year longitudinal cohort study

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Leptin is a major adipokine that regulates weight balance and energy homeostasis. However, previous longitudinal studies demonstrated that the influence of leptin on changes in weight and body fat was inconsistent. Therefore, we investigated the predictive value of serum leptin levels for subsequent development of obesity.

Design and Method:

Totally 246 obese and 531 non-obese children aged 6–11 years were reassessed for body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) after 6 years. Serum leptin concentrations were measured at baseline. Gender-specific multivariate linear regression models were used to identify the associations between leptin and changes in adiposity measures. Odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) was calculated using multinominal logistic regression models adjusting for sex, age and pubertal stage at baseline.


During the follow-up period, the incidence of obesity was 10.9% (58/531), with no gender differences, although the prevalence of obesity and all adiposity measures were higher in boys than in girls at both baseline and follow-up. The levels of baseline leptin were significantly higher in girls than in boys after adjusting for age, tanner stage, and BMI. Serum leptin levels at baseline were negatively associated with increases in BMI for boys and WC for girls. A significantly high risk of obesity was observed for children with high leptin levels, and OR (95%CI) per increase each quartile of serum leptin was 6.41 (4.72–8.70) for persistent obesity from childhood to adolescence, followed by 5.09 (3.64–7.11) for transient obesity at baseline and 2.16 (1.59–2.93) for incident obesity during the follow-up period, respectively. The associations of the leptin with obese status over the follow-up time were replicated when WC was used to defined central obesity.


These results suggest that elevated serum leptin concentrations predict future weight gain and occurrence of obesity in Chinese children.

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