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Leptin levels are associated with decreased depressive symptoms in women across the weight spectrum, independent of body fat

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Objective  Leptin is anorexigenic, and levels are markedly decreased in women with low body weight and high in women with obesity. Ghrelin opposes leptin effects on appetite and is negatively associated with body mass index. These appetite‐regulating hormones may have opposing effects on mood and stress pathways. Women with anorexia nervosa (AN), hypothalamic amenorrhoea (HA) and obesity are at increased risk of depression and anxiety. It is unknown whether dysregulation of leptin or ghrelin contributes to the development of depression and/or anxiety in these disorders. We investigated the relationship between leptin and ghrelin levels and symptoms of depression, anxiety and perceived stress in women across the weight spectrum.

Design  Cross‐sectional.

Patients  64 women: 15 with AN, 12 normal‐weight with HA, 17 overweight or obese (OB) and 20 normal‐weight in good health (HC).

Measurements  Fasting serum leptin and plasma ghrelin levels were measured. Hamilton Rating Scales for Depression (HAM‐D) and Anxiety (HAM‐A) and the Perceived Stress Scale were administered.

Results  Leptin levels were inversely associated with HAM‐D, HAM‐A and Perceived Stress scores. The negative relationships between leptin and severity of symptoms of both depression and anxiety remained significant after controlling for body fat or weight. There was no relationship between ghrelin and symptoms of depression or anxiety. Although ghrelin levels were positively associated with the degree of perceived stress, this relationship was not significant after controlling for body fat or weight.

Conclusions  Leptin may mediate depressive symptoms across the weight spectrum. Further investigation of the role of leptin in modulating mood will be important.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Neuroendocrine Unit 2: Department of Psychiatry

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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