Alcohol, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Obesity among People Living with HIV

J AIDS Clin Res. 2013 Sep 20:4:245. doi: 10.4172/2155-6113.1000245.


Introduction: In an expanding HAART era, obesity has become a health problem among persons living with HIV (PLWH). Whereas the rising level of obesity has been largely attributed to poor nutrition and exercise habits, differences in biological factors may explain why some individuals gain more weight than others. Thus, our main goal is to prospectively determine in PLWH whether plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and hazardous alcohol use (HAU), two overlooked but highly prevalent conditions among PLWH, correlate with an adverse anthropometric profile. Also to test whether these relationships varied in men and women.

Methods: The Platelets mediating Alcohol and HIV Damage Study (PADS) is an ongoing multiethnic study of 400 PLWH receiving regular medical care in South Florida (37% females and 63% males). Semi-annual visits consisted of a medical exam, including anthropometrics to assess both general (body mass index: BMI) and central obesity (waist and hip circumferences). Participants also completed health history questionnaires, and provided a fasting blood sample to obtain BDNF and immune and biochemical assessments.

Results: A sizable proportion of participants met the National Institutes of Health definition of overweight (BMI = 25-29.9 kg/m2; 26%) and obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2; 35%). Women were more likely to be obese than men (OR=4.9, 95% CI=2.9-8.2, p=0.0001). Compared to men, women also exhibited the highest mean plasma BDNF levels (9,959 ± 6,578 vs. 7,470 ± 6,068 pg/ml, p=0.0001). Additional analyses indicated that HAU, particularly heavy drinkers, had the smallest waist and hip circumferences if they were males, but the opposite if they were females. High BDNF levels were positively correlated with BMI. Linear regression analysis revealed that gender, BDNF, and HAU were the best predictors of BMI.

Conclusion: In summary, our findings offer novel insights into the relationships between BDNF, and alcohol use among overweight and obese PLWH. Our results also suggest that these relationships may be inherently different by gender.