The role of leptin in mesolimbic signaling non-food-related reward has been well established at the pre-clinical level, yet studies in humans are lacking. The present investigation explored the association between hedonic capacity and leptin dynamics, and whether this association differed by BMI class.
In this cross-sectional study of 75 women (42 with lean BMIs, 33 with obese BMIs), we measured serum leptin before/after meal consumption. Reward capacity was assessed using the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS). Multiple regression tested whether reward capacity was associated with leptin AUC, with an interaction term to test differences between lean (LN) and obese (OB) groups.
The interaction of SHAPS by BMI group was robust (β=−.40, p=.005); among women with obesity, greater SHAPS score was associated with lower leptin AUC (β=−.35, p=.002, adjusted R-squared=.66). Among the lean group, the association was not statistically significant (β=−.16, p=.252, adjusted R-squared=.22). Findings were above and beyond BMI and age.
In this sample a robust, negative association between reward capacity and circulating leptin was stronger in women with obesity compared to lean counterparts. These findings suggest that despite likely leptin resistance, inhibitory leptin functioning related to non-food reward may be spared in women with obesity.