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Serum leptin and gonadotropin levels in patients with anorexia nervosa during weight gain


Leptin plays an important role in reproductive function. In patients with acute anorexia nervosa, serum leptin levels have repeatedly been shown to be lower than in age-matched controls. We have previously hypothesized that the amenorrhea characteristic of anorexia nervosa is related to this low leptin secretion. In an attempt to address this hypothesis, serum levels of leptin and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) of 16 female inpatients with anorexia nervosa or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (atypical anorexia nervosa) were measured on a biweekly basis during weight gain. We hypothesized that a serum leptin level of 1.85 μg L−1 would be associated with gonadotropin levels at or above the minimal level observed during the menstrual cycle in healthy adult fertile females. Our results revealed that increments of LH levels generally tracked increments of leptin levels during the first weeks of treatment. Similarly, in those patients with low referral leptin levels, FSH initially also tracked leptin levels. In contrast, a relationship between gonadotropin levels and leptin secretion was no longer discernible after LH and FSH levels had peaked. Those patients with exceedingly low leptin levels upon admission revealed a slow increase of gonadotropin levels. Our hypothesis of a threshold leptin level of 1.85 μg L−1 was supported for LH only.

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Correspondence to J Hebebrand.

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Ballauff, A., Ziegler, A., Emons, G. et al. Serum leptin and gonadotropin levels in patients with anorexia nervosa during weight gain. Mol Psychiatry 4, 71–75 (1999).

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  • luteinizing hormone
  • follicle stimulating hormone
  • fertility
  • amenorrhea
  • reproduction
  • eating disorder

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