Sex differences in circulating leptin as a marker of adiposity in obese or overweight adolescents with type 1 diabetes

BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2020 Oct;8(1):e001683. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2020-001683.


Introduction: We aimed to test whether the serum adipokines leptin and adiponectin are more strongly associated with body fat percentage (BF%) than body mass index (BMI) in adolescents with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and overweight/obesity.

Research design and methods: We studied all participants in the T1D Exchange Metformin Study (n=122, median age 12.9 years, range 12-19.5; 32% males; 77% non-Hispanic whites, 100% overweight or obesity; median diabetes duration 6.7 years, range 1.4-15) with a baseline serum sample where we measured leptin and adiponectin concentrations. Anthropometric, clinical, laboratory and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan measurements were analyzed. We compared correlation coefficients between variables of interest.

Results: BF% by DEXA was significantly correlated with BMI Z-score (r=0.38, p<0.0001), BMI per cent of the 95th percentile (BMI%95) (r=0.45, p<0.0001), waist circumference (r=0.46, p<0.0001), leptin (r=0.58, p<0.00001) and leptin/adiponectin ratio (r=0.36, p<0.0001), while it was not significantly correlated with absolute body weight, adiponectin or insulin dose (total or basal). BF% was significantly more strongly correlated with leptin than with BMI Z-score in the overall group (p=0.022). However, there were sex-based differences. Among the significant correlations in the overall group, BF% was most strongly associated with leptin (r=0.75) in boys (n=39) but with waist circumference (r=0.58) in girls (n=83) (all p<0.0001).

Conclusions: Serum leptin could be used as a surrogate convenient marker of adiposity in overweight/obese adolescent boys with T1D, equivalent to BMI Z-score or BMI%95. In girls, waist circumference was the best performing marker overall, and was also strongly correlated with %BF in boys.

Keywords: adipokines; diabetes mellitus; leptin; obesity; type 1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptin*
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult


  • Leptin