In addition to its anorexigenic properties in the neuroendocrine regulation of hunger and satiety, mounting evidence indicates a role for NUCB2/nesfatin-1 in the regulation of emotional stress responses which seems to occur in a sex-specific way. In the present study, we investigated the association of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 plasma levels with anxiety, depressiveness and perceived stress in obese men and women and their alterations during inpatient treatment. We expected a decrease of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 levels in female and an increase in male patients reporting a relevant alleviation of anxiety. We analyzed 69 inpatients (44 female, 25 male; body mass index, mean: 50.2±9.5kg/m2, range: 31.8-76.5kg/m2; mean age: 45.0±12.4years) hospitalized due to morbid obesity with mental (not necessarily anxiety disorders) and somatic comorbidities. NUCB2/nesfatin-1 plasma levels were measured by ELISA. Anxiety (GAD-7), depressiveness (PHQ-9) and perceived stress (PSQ-20) were concurrently determined as patient-reported outcomes. All measurements were carried out at the initiation of and during inpatient treatment when a clinically meaningful improvement of anxiety was achieved (≥5 points on GAD-7) or missed (±1 point). NUCB2/nesfatin-1 was positively correlated with anxiety scores in women at the beginning of (r=0.411; p=0.006) and during (r=0.301; p=0.047) inpatient treatment. In men, a significant negative correlation was observed following treatment (r=-0.469; p=0.018), while at the outset of treatment only a trend was observed (r=-0.381; p=0.059). Unexpectedly, neither women (n=19; at beginning vs. during treatment; 0.49±1.00ng/ml vs. 0.38±0.72ng/ml; p=0.687) nor men (n=9; 0.17±0.31ng/ml vs. 0.19±0.36ng/ml; p=0.427) who improved in anxiety scores (p<0.001) displayed significant changes of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 plasma levels, although the direction of change was as expected with a decrease in women (-23.3%) and an increase in men (+12.4%). In addition, the change of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 was not explained by the course of anxiety (women: p=0.587; men: p=0.373). In conclusion, women and men showed an inverse association between NUCB2/nesfatin-1 and anxiety with a positive correlation in women and a negative correlation in men (although this correlation was not statistically significant in men at the beginning of treatment). However, no significant change of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 following improvement of anxiety has been observed. This might be due to the short observation interval, or due to too small anxiety improvements associated with too low baseline anxiety levels.
Keywords: Emotion; Gut-brain axis; Mood; Nucleobindin2; Psychobiology; Psychoneuroendocrine.
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