Epidemiologic evidence links psychosocial stress with obesity but experimental studies examining the mechanisms that mediates the effect of stress on adiposity are scarce. The aim of this study was to investigate whether changes in adiposity following minimal weight loss affect heightened stress responses in women, and examine the role of the adipokine leptin in driving inflammatory responses. Twenty-three overweight or obese, but otherwise healthy, women (M age = 30.41 ± 8.0 years; BMI = 31.9 ± 4.1 kg/m(2)) completed standardized acute mental stress before and after a 9-week calorie restriction program designed to modify adiposity levels. Cardiovascular (blood pressure and heart rate) and inflammatory cytokines (leptin and interleukin-6; IL-6) responses to mental stress were assessed several times between baseline and a 45-min post-stress recovery period. There were modest changes in adiposity measures while the adipokine leptin was markedly reduced (-27%) after the intervention. Blood pressure reactivity was attenuated (-3.38 ± 1.39 mmHg) and heart rate recovery was improved (2.07 ± 0.96 Bpm) after weight loss. Blood pressure responses were inversely associated with changes in waist to hip ratio post intervention. Decreased levels of circulating leptin following weight loss were inversely associated with the IL-6 inflammatory response to stress (r = -0.47). We offered preliminary evidence suggesting that modest changes in adiposity following a brief caloric restriction program may yield beneficial effect on cardiovascular stress responses. In addition, reductions in basal leptin activity might be important in blunting pro-inflammatory responses. Large randomized trials of the effect of adiposity on autonomic responses are thus warranted.
Keywords: Adiposity; inflammation; interleukin-6; leptin; mental stress.