Administration of leptin to rodents results in weight loss through decreased food intake and increased energy expenditure that occurs in part through increased spontaneous activity. In humans, low levels of spontaneous physical activity and below normal plasma leptin concentrations predict subsequent excess weight gain. We recently found that failure to increase nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) with overfeeding results in greater fat gain in humans, and subsequently evaluated whether changes in leptin are related to NEAT activation. We measured plasma leptin concentrations and adipose tissue leptin messenger ribonucleic acid together with the components of energy expenditure in 16 nonobese humans before and after overfeeding to assess the relationship between leptin responses to overfeeding and the changes in NEAT. Adipocyte leptin expression was up-regulated with overfeeding, and leptin concentrations increased. Leptin concentrations correlated with body fat before and after overfeeding. Changes in leptin with overfeeding were strongly related to changes in body fat, but not to changes in NEAT. Changes in NEAT correlated inversely with fat gain. It is, therefore, unlikely that leptin mediates activation of NEAT with overfeeding in nonobese humans; rather, leptin directly reflects body fat mass and fat mass gain.
JAMES A. LEVINE, NORMAN L. EBERHARDT, AND MICHAEL D. JENSEN