Background and aim
Information regarding the effect of leptin on the vasculature in young healthy adults at risk for cardiovascular disease development is limited. We therefore examined the associations between measures of subclinical atherosclerosis (carotid intima‐media thickness, carotid cross‐sectional wall area), large artery stiffness (pulse wave velocity) and a measure of endothelial dysfunction (von Willebrand factor [vWF]) with leptin in young healthy men and women.
In a cross‐sectional study in South Africa involving 820 normotensive individuals (337 men and 483 women) aged 20‐30 years, we measured carotid intima‐media thickness, carotid cross‐sectional wall area, pulse wave velocity, vWF from citrated plasma and leptin from serum.
Despite sevenfold higher leptin in women than men (P < 0.001), only in young healthy men, we observed negative, independent associations between measures of carotid wall thickness (carotid intima‐media thickness: R 2 = 0.05; β = −0.20; P = 0.036; carotid cross‐sectional wall area: R 2 = 0.05; β = −0.20; P = 0.035) with leptin in multivariable‐adjusted regression analyses. When reviewing these associations across body mass index categories, we found an association to be evident only in overweight men (carotid intima‐media thickness: R 2 = 0.15; β = −0.41; P = 0.007; carotid cross‐sectional wall area: R 2 = 0.21; β = −0.47; P = 0.002). No association was observed in the women or between pulse wave velocity and vWF with leptin.
In young healthy men, we found a beneficial inverse association between measures of carotid wall thickness and circulating leptin, thereby supporting a potential vascular protective role of leptin.