Stephan Herpertz a , Richard Wagner b , Norbert Albers c , Werner F. Blum d,e , Barbara Pelz a , Mathias Langkafel a , Werner Köpp f , Andreas Henning a , Corinna Oberste-Berghaus b , Klaus Mann b , Wolfgang Senf a , Johannes Hebebrand g
04 December 1998
In anorexia nervosa, underweight results from a loss of body mass due to a restricted energy intake. Circulating leptin levels have been shown to be low in the acute stage of the disorder. We studied diurnal secretion characteristics of leptin, insulin and cortisol in a study group of anorectic patients prior to refeeding, a second study group of anorectic patients after initiation of refeeding and study groups of healthy underweight and normal-weight controls. Spontaneous secretion of leptin, insulin and cortisol was measured by drawing blood samples every 2 h for 24 h. The temporal relationships between the diurnal secretion patterns of the three hormones were assessed by cross-correlation analysis in every study group. Plasma levels of leptin and cortisol were secreted with a specific circadian rhythmicity and displayed an intricate temporal relationship in anorectic patients. Semistarvation in the non-refed patients was associated with (1) exceedingly low plasma leptin levels, (2) a qualitative alteration in the circadian rhythm of leptin and cortisol levels and (3) an alteration in the temporal coupling between cortisol and leptin. In contrast, in the patients who had gained weight, leptin levels were higher; furthermore, the diurnal pattern of leptin and the temporal relationship between leptin and cortisol were similar to controls. Increments in insulin secretion preceded those of leptin by 4–6 h in both anorectic patients and in controls. Leptin levels increased 4 h prior to those of cortisol in controls and in refed patients, whereas in the non-refed patients cortisol increased prior to leptin. Thus, anorexia nervosa leads to pronounced, albeit reversible changes in the secretion dynamics of leptin and cortisol.