Aging is associated with changes in plasma levels of several hormones. There are conflicting reports on whether circulating leptin levels change during aging, the possible explanation for which is that alterations in adiposity and body mass index (BMI) also occur. In this study we measured plasma leptin and other hormonal parameters known to influence leptin in 150 men and 320 women of a wide age (18-77 yr) and BMI (18.5-61.1 kg/m2) range. Subjects of each gender were separated into 2 groups of similar BMI, i.e. nonobese (BMI, <30) and obese (BMI, >30), and treated separately. Statistical analysis was performed, treating each group of subjects as a whole population or divided into age groups (<30, 30-50, and >50 yr). BMI-adjusted leptin levels were progressively lower with increasing age in women, with a consistent fall after menopause (-21%; P < 0.001); in men, leptin levels also tended to be lower in subjects more than 50 yr of age, but the reduction was not significant. Multiple linear regression analysis, performed on subjects treated either as a whole population or divided into obese and nonobese, showed that in both genders BMI and age were independent contributors of leptin levels, and there was an inverse relationship between leptin and age in both obese (standardized coefficient beta = -0.25 in women and -0.23 in men; P < 0.01) and nonobese (-0.22 in women and -0.20 in men; P < 0.05) subjects. The correlation of leptin and age with plasma levels of sex and thyroid hormones, GH, insulin-like growth factor I, PRL, and insulin was also evaluated. The variables that correlated with leptin were included in a multiple regression model that included BMI and age. Testosterone in men (-0.43 in nonobese and -0.19 in obese; P < 0.05) and estradiol in women (0.22 in nonobese and 0.24 in obese; P < 0.05) were important contributors to leptin levels; also, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in obese women (-0.16) and sex hormone-binding globulin in obese subjects of both genders (0.15 in women and 0.19 in men) were significant determinants in the model. However, none of the hormonal parameters abolished the negative correlation between leptin and age or the gender difference in leptin levels. In conclusion, our data show that in adult humans of different body weight, serum leptin gradually declines during aging; leptin reduction is higher in women than in men, but it is independent from BMI and other age-related endocrine changes.