Objective: Leptin, the product of the obesity (ob) gene, is a multi-functional polypeptide that is important in energy metabolism, which is strongly correlated with body fat mass and body mass index (BMI). In a recent prospective study, we found that leptin was positively associated with 4 y weight gain among overweight and obese men. This suggests that leptin resistance, marked by hyperleptinemia among obese subjects, may be an important marker for weight gain. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether modifiable dietary and lifestyle factors are associated with plasma leptin concentrations among US men.
Methods: We included 268 men aged 47--83 y (who were free of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and cancer, except nonmelanoma skin cancer) from the ongoing Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These subjects completed a detailed dietary and lifestyle questionnaire (including cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking and physical activity) and provided a fasting venous blood sample in 1994. All blood samples were stored in a deep freeze (-70 degrees C) for 4--5 y before being analyzed. Plasma leptin concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay.
Results: Men in the highest quintile of plasma leptin (mean=14.4 ng/ml) weighed more, were less physically active, and had higher total and saturated fat and cholesterol intake than men in the lowest quintile (mean=3.0 ng/ml). Physical activity and current smoking were inversely associated with plasma leptin concentrations (P<0.001). A 20 MET difference in physical activity per week (equivalent to approximately 3 h of jogging) was associated with 0.38--0.58 ng/ml lower plasma leptin concentrations for normal weight and overweight men after adjusting for total energy and fat intake, BMI and other confounding variables. Total fat and monounsaturated fat intakes were positively associated with plasma leptin concentrations even after adjusting for BMI and other confounding variables; however, this association was limited to men of normal weight (BMI<25 kg/m(2)).
Conclusion: These data suggest that physical activity may be a significant determinant of plasma leptin concentrations in men. Increasing physical activity is associated with lower plasma leptin concentrations even after adjusting for BMI. Physical activity may lower leptin concentrations not only due to decreased body fat mass, but potentially through an increase in leptin sensitivity. International Journal of Obesity (2001) 25, 106-114