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Body Mass Index, percent body fat, and regional body fat distribution in relation to leptin concentrations in healthy, non-smoking postmenopausal women in a feeding study

Somdat Mahabir1*, David Baer2, Laura L Johnson3, Mark Roth4, William Campbell2, Beverly Clevidence2 and Philip R Taylor5

Author affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

2 US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, MD, USA

3 National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

4 Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

5 Genetic Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2007, 6:3  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-6-3

Published: 17 January 2007



The relationship between BMI and leptin has been studied extensively in the past, but previous reports in postmenopausal women have not been conducted under carefully controlled dietary conditions of weight maintenance using precise measures of body fat distribution. The aim of the present study was to examine the association between serum leptin concentration and adiposity as estimated by BMI and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) measures (percent body fat, central and peripheral fat, and lean mass) in postmenopausal women.


This study was conducted as a cross-sectional analysis within the control segment of a randomized, crossover trial in which postmenopausal women (n = 51) consumed 0 (control), 15 (one drink), and 30 (two drinks) g alcohol (ethanol)/d for 8 weeks as part of a controlled diet. BMIs were determined and DEXA scans were administered to the women during the 0 g alcohol treatment, and a blood sample was collected at baseline and week 8 of each study period for leptin analysis.

Results and discussion

In multivariate analysis, women who were overweight (BMI > 25 to ≤ 30 kg/m2) had a 2-fold increase, and obese women (BMI > 30 kg/m2) had more than a 3-fold increase in serum leptin concentrations compared to normal weight (BMI ≤25 kg/m2) women. When the models for the different measures of adiposity were assessed by multiple R2, models which included percent body fat explained the highest proportion (approximately 80%) of the serum leptin variance.


Under carefully controlled dietary conditions, we confirm that higher levels of adiposity were associated with higher concentrations of serum leptin. It appears that percent body fat in postmenopausal women may be the best adiposity-related predictor of serum leptin.