- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

DALLAS (AP) High levels of leptin, a hormone naturally produced in fat cells, can be a strong predictor of heart disease, a study found.
"Leptin is such a brilliant blood marker for body fat for people at any weight, and it is not difficult to measure," said Dr. Naveed Sattar, who led the study, published in today's issue of the journal Circulation.
Being overweight is already a well-recognized risk factor for heart disease.
But Dr. Sattar, an endocrinologist at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland, said leptin levels may be a better measurement of obesity than body mass index a measure of weight relative to height because people with the same BMI can have different amounts of body fat.
The connection between leptin and heart disease was found to be independent of other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Leptin is a hormone that is supposed to signal the brain to stop eating. But the signal does not get through in some overweight people. At one point a few years ago, doctors thought leptin could be used as a breakthrough obesity drug. So far, however, it has not lived up to its promise.
The Scottish research involved 377 men who developed heart attacks or clogged arteries during a five-year period and 783 men who remained free of heart disease.
The researchers found that leptin levels in the men with heart disease were 16 percent higher than those in the disease-free group. They found a 25 percent increased risk for every 30 percent rise in leptin levels.
"It absolutely reinforces the need for exercise and weight control because those will lower leptin levels," said Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
Dr. Sattar's study also showed that leptin levels increased in overweight people along with levels of C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation in the body that is associated with heart disease.
The study involved middle-aged white men, and Dr. Sattar said more research is needed on how the findings apply to others.

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