The role of intrauterine environment in the development of obesity is increasingly recognised. Adipokines and specifically leptin have been examined as potential biomarkers predicting early development of obesity. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the epidemiological evidence for the association between leptin levels in cord blood and anthropometric measurements at birth in healthy mother-newborn pairs. A PubMed search was performed between 1994 and 2009 and manual search of reference lists of retrieved articles. Forty-four studies met the inclusion criteria set. All studies reported a positive correlation between leptin levels and birthweight. The combined correlation coefficient (r) was 0.46 [95%CI 0.43, 0.50]. Leptin levels explained 21% of variation in birthweight. Results were similar in males (r=0.55; 0.40, 0.68) and females (r=0.60; 0.50, 0.69), and between Caucasians (r=0.45; 0.39, 0.51) and eastern Asian populations (r=0.47; 0.37, 0.55). Statistically significant positive correlations were also found for birth length (r=0.29; 0.23, 0.34) and ponderal index (r=0.36; 0.31, 0.41). There was no indication of publication bias (Egger's test P-value=0.23). This meta-analysis shows a clear but moderate correlation between leptin levels in cord blood and birthweight that is observed in different population groups.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.