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Plasma leptin concentrations are associated with bone mineral density and the presence of vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women


Toshitsugu Sugimoto, Third Division, Department of Medicine, Kobe University School of Medicine, 7-5-2 Kusunoki-cho, Chuo-ku Kobe, 650-0017, Japan. Fax: + 81 78 382 5899.


OBJECTIVE Although total fat body mass (FM) is considered to be one of the major determinants of bone mass, the mechanism by which FM and bone mass are positively correlated remains unclear. Leptin, the product of the obese (ob) gene, is secreted from adipocytes and its plasma levels are known to be positively correlated with %fat (FM divided by total body weight). There is recent evidence suggesting that leptin directly stimulates osteoblastic differentiation. Thus it is possible that the anabolic action of this hormone on bone may participate in the positive correlation between FM and bone mass. In this study, we analysed the relationships between either plasma leptin levels or %fat vs. bone mineral density (BMD) values as well as the presence of vertebral compression fractures, and evaluated whether or not plasma leptin levels were associated with BMD or bone fragility in a manner independent of FM.

PATIENTS One hundred and thirty-nine postmenopausal women (age 48–78 years, mean 62·5), who visited our outpatient clinic for the evaluation of osteoporosis.

DESIGN and MEASUREMENTS Plasma concentrations of leptin after an overnight fast were measured by radioimmunoassay. BMD values were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at the lumbar spine, femoral neck and whole body. Distal one-third of radius BMD was measured by single photon absorptiometry (SPA). Vertebral fractures were assessed by lateral thoracic and lumbar spine radiographs.

RESULTS Although neither plasma leptin levels nor %fat correlated with age, there was a significant positive correlation between plasma leptin levels and %fat (r = 0·563, P < 0·001). Plasma leptin levels were significantly and positively correlated with BMD values at all skeleton sites measured, and multiple regression analysis revealed that this positive relationship was still observed with BMD values of the femoral neck and of the whole body, even after %fat and age were taken into account. Moreover, plasma leptin levels but not %fat were significantly lower in women with vertebral fractures than in those without fractures. When multiple logistic regression analysis was performed with either plasma leptin value or %fat employed as independent variables, plasma leptin values but not %fat were selected as an index affecting the presence of vertebral fractures.

CONCLUSION Our study showed that plasma leptin levels but not %fat are associated with BMD and the presence of vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women, suggesting that circulating leptin might play a physiological role in maintaining bone mass as well as better bone quality.