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Keywords:

  • serum leptin levels;
  • involuntary weight loss;
  • body mass index

OBJECTIVES: To determine the relationship between leptin and unintentional weight loss in older adults.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study over 2 years.

SETTING: University-affiliated Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

PARTICIPANTS: The subjects were 105 community-dwelling male veterans aged 65 and older who had participated in a prospective cohort study on nutrition and health conducted at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System from 1986 to 1989.

MEASUREMENTS: Anthropometric data and fasting blood specimens were collected at baseline and annually for the subsequent 2 years. Stored blood specimens were analyzed for leptin, insulin, glucose, C-reactive protein, sex hormone binding globulin, and testosterone levels.

RESULTS: Over 2 years, 75 men were weight stable (weight loss <4% of baseline) and 30 men had unintentional weight loss (weight loss>4% of baseline). The baseline body mass index (BMI) and leptin levels for the two groups were not statistically different. Positive correlations existed between leptin level and BMI at each time point for weight-stable and weight-loss subjects. Furthermore, a significant relationship existed between changes in leptin and changes in BMI over 1 year in multiple regression analysis (r = .436, P < .001 after the first year; and r = .630, P = .027 after the second year).

CONCLUSIONS: Like in younger adults, plasma leptin levels remained proportional to BMI, and changes in BMI were accurately reflected by changes in leptin levels in older individuals. Fasting leptin levels did not predict involuntary weight loss over 2 years of follow-up.