Sexual dimorphism in the early life programming of serum leptin levels in European adolescents: The HELENA study

Idoia Labayen Goñi, Jonatan R. Ruiz, Inge Huybrechts, Francisco B. Ortega, Gerardo Rodríguez, Stefaan DeHenauw, Christina Breidenassel, David Jiménez-Pavón, Khrisna E. Vyncke, Laura Censi, Dénés Molnar, Kurt Widhalm, Anthony Kafatos, María Plada, Ligia E. Díaz, Ascensión Marcos, Luis A. Moreno, Frédéric Gottrand

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Aim: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that a lower birth weight, as an indicator of adverse intrauterine environment, is associated with higher serum leptin levels in European adolescents. We also examined the possible sexual dimorphism in this relationship. Methods: Fasting serum leptin was measured in 757 European born at term adolescents (429 females) aged 14.6 ± 1.2 yr. We measured weight and height, and body mass index was calculated. Birth weight, duration of pregnancy, and duration of breast-feeding were obtained from parental records. Duration of pregnancy and breast-feeding, pubertal status, center, body mass index, and physical activity were entered as confounders in the analyses. Results: There was a significant interaction effect between sex and birth weight on serum leptin levels (P = 0.044). We observed that body weight at birth was negatively and significantly associated with serum leptin levels only in female adolescents (β = -0.109; adjusted P = 0.008). The association persisted after further controlling for physical activity (β = -0.115; adjusted P = 0.016). Conclusions: These findings provide further evidence for a sex-specific programming effect of birth weight on serum leptin levels. Our results also contribute to explain the detrimental health effects associated with lower birth weight, such as long-term increased risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1330-E1334
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

Cite this

Labayen Goñi, I., Ruiz, J. R., Huybrechts, I., Ortega, F. B., Rodríguez, G., DeHenauw, S., Breidenassel, C., Jiménez-Pavón, D., Vyncke, K. E., Censi, L., Molnar, D., Widhalm, K., Kafatos, A., Plada, M., Díaz, L. E., Marcos, A., Moreno, L. A., & Gottrand, F. (2011). Sexual dimorphism in the early life programming of serum leptin levels in European adolescents: The HELENA study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(8), E1330-E1334.