High altitude induced anorexia: effect of changes in leptin and oxidative stress levels

Nutr Neurosci. 2007 Oct-Dec;10(5-6):243-9. doi: 10.1080/10284150701722299.


High altitude (HA) exposure usually leads to a significant weight loss in non-acclimatized humans. Anorexia is believed to be the main cause of this body weight loss. Appetite regulatory peptides, i.e. leptin and neuropeptide Y play a key role in food intake and energy homeostasis. Recent studies suggests increased oxidative stress during HA exposure. In present study effect of HA exposure on levels of leptin and NPY was evaluated along with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and vitamin E supplementation in relation to food intake and body weight changes. The study was conducted on 30 healthy male volunteers (age 19-29 years). Subjects were divided randomly into three groups of 10 each. Group 1 (placebo) supplemented with 400 mg of calcium gluconate, group 2 and 3 were supplemented with 400 mg of NAC and 400 mg vitamin E, respectively per day. The study was conducted at low altitude (320 m, Phase I), at HA 3600 m (Phase II) and at an altitude of 4580 m (Phase III). On HA exposure significant reduction in plasma leptin levels was observed in all the groups on day 2 (Phase II) along with decrease in food intake and reduction in body weight. Statistically significant increase in blood malondialdehyde (MDA) levels was seen in all the groups on HA exposure (Phase II, Day 2), but the maximum increase was in case of placebo group (65.1%) on day 2 (Phase II) in comparison to low altitude values. The decrease in energy intake was almost same in all the groups indicating that antioxidant supplementation did not provide any protection against HA anorexia. From the study, it may be concluded that leptin and oxidative stress possibly are not the key players for HA anorexia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / administration & dosage
  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Anorexia / etiology*
  • Anorexia / physiopathology
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Body Mass Index
  • Energy Intake
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / blood
  • Neuropeptide Y / blood
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Placebos
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage
  • Weight Loss


  • Antioxidants
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Placebos
  • Vitamin E
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Acetylcysteine