Association between serum leptin concentrations and insulin resistance: a population-based study from China

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54615. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054615. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Background: Insulin resistance contributes to the cardio-metabolic risk. The effect of leptin in obese and overweight population on insulin resistance was seldom reported.

Methods: A total of 1234 subjects (572 men and 662 women) aged ≥18 y was sampled by the procedure. Adiposity measures included BMI, waist circumference, hip circumference, WHR, upper arm circumference, triceps skinfold and body fat percentage. Serum leptin concentrations were measured by an ELISA method. The homeostasis model (HOMA-IR) was applied to estimate insulin resistance.

Results: In men, BMI was the variable which was most strongly correlated with leptin, whereas triceps skinfold was most sensitive for women. More importantly, serum leptin levels among insulin resistant subjects were almost double compared to the subjects who had normal insulin sensitivity at the same level of adiposity in both men and women, after controlling for potential confounders. In addition, HOMA-IR increased significantly across leptin quintiles after adjustment for age, BMI, total energy intake, physical activity and smoking status in both men and women (p for trend <0.0001).

Conclusions: There was a significant association between HOMA-IR and serum leptin concentrations in Chinese men and women, independently of adiposity levels. This may suggest that serum leptin concentration is an important predictor of insulin resistance and other metabolic risks irrespective of obesity levels. Furthermore, leptin levels may be used to identify the cardio-metabolic risk in obese and overweight population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • China
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / genetics*
  • Leptin* / blood
  • Leptin* / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Overweight
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Leptin

Grant support

This work was funded by the Norwegian Research Council, Norway. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.