Circulating Leptin in Normal Children and During the Dynamic Phase of Juvenile Obesity: Relation to Body Fatness, Energy Metabolism, Caloric Intake, and Sexual Dimorphism

  1. Pierre-François Bougnères
  1. From the INSERM U342 and Pediatric Endocrinology, Saint Vincent de Paul Paris, France
  2. Department of Biostatistics, Necker, René Descartes University Paris, France
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Pierre Bougnères, U342 INSERM, Hôpital St. Vincent de Paul, 82 Avenue Denfert Rochereau, Paris, France.


In 112 obese compared with 42 lean children, we found that serum leptin is elevated early in the evolution of childhood-onset obesity (28.4 ± 1.4 vs. 4.5 ± 0.4 ng/ml in lean children, P < 0.0001) and correlates with adiposity. Obese children also had higher serum leptin normalized to fat mass. Despite high serum leptin, obese children ingested 2–3 times more calories than did lean control subjects (P < 0.0001) and gained weight rapidly (10.2 ± 0.3 vs. 2.9 ± 0.1 kg/year in control subjects, P < 0.0001). Girls had higher leptin levels than did boys, in obese as well as in nonobese children, and showed a closer correlation between adiposity and serum leptin. Elevation of serum leptin was comparable before and after puberty in obese boys, but puberty further increased leptin levels in obese girls (36 ± 3 ng/ml), resulting in a clear sexual dimorphism with pubertal obese boys (22 ± 5 ng/ml, P < 0.005). In conclusion, increased serum leptin reflects but does not halt fat deposition in childhood obesity. After normalization to body adiposity, leptin was found to be increased independently by obesity status, female sex, and female sexual maturation.

  • Received May 22, 1996.
  • Revision received January 15, 1997.
  • Accepted January 15, 1997.
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