Leptin: does it have any role in childhood asthma?

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Aug;114(2):254-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.03.053.


Background: Although there is evidence of a positive association between asthma and obesity in adults and children, very little is known about the role of leptin in asthmatic children.

Objectives: The aims of this study were to evaluate the relation between leptin and parameters of atopy and asthma in children.

Methods: Body mass index (BMI) and serum leptin levels were measured in 102 (37 female, 65 male; mean age, 5.9 +/- 3.4 years) asthmatic and 33 (14 female, 19 male; mean age, 6.1 +/- 3.4 years) healthy children. Skin prick tests, total serum IgE, and pulmonary function tests were performed and were completed.

Results: A significant difference was observed in serum leptin levels between asthmatic and healthy children. Median (interquartile range) levels were 3.53 (2.06-7.24) ng/mL and 2.26 (1.26-4.71) ng/mL, respectively (P=.008). Subgroup analysis revealed that this difference in leptin levels was confined entirely to boys: 3.09 (1.99-7.51) ng/mL in boys with asthma versus 1.52 (1.06-3.17) ng/mL in boys without asthma (P=.003). By logistic regression analysis, we found that leptin was a predictive factor for having asthma (odds ratio, 1.98; CI, 1.10-3.55; P=.021), whereas sex, age, or BMI were not. In a stepwise multiple regression analysis including sex (P=.001), age (P=.016), BMI (P <.001), and asthma (P=.022), all of these variables were found to affect log leptin levels (R2=0.404). There was no significant sex difference in serum leptin levels among asthmatic children, whereas healthy boys had significantly lower leptin levels than healthy girls (P=.019). Atopic asthmatic subjects had significantly higher leptin levels than nonatopic asthmatic subjects (P=.038) with similar BMI. A significant, but weak, correlation was observed between leptin levels and IgE in the overall group of asthmatic children (r=0.231; P=.019). Again, this correlation was confined entirely to boys (r=0.319; P=.010). There was no relation between leptin levels and skin prick tests, pulmonary function tests, passive smoking, birth weight, and duration of breast-feeding.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that leptin may play a role in atopic asthma. High serum leptin levels in asthmatic boys may partly explain the higher prevalence of childhood asthma in male sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / blood
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Interleukin-6
  • Leptin
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Immunoglobulin E