Background: Bipolar disorder (BD) is a psychiatric disorder associated with increased rates of obesity and inflammation. Leptin is an adipokine that is mainly produced by the white adipose tissue in response to insulin. It stimulates the immune system, increasing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. There is currently uncertainty regarding possible alterations in peripheral leptin levels across the mood states in BD. Methods: This study comprises a between-group meta-analysis comparing serum and plasma leptin levels in people with BD in mania, depression or euthymia and healthy controls. We conducted a systematic search for all possibly eligible-English and non-English peer-reviewed articles. We calculated the effect size (ES) utilizing Hedges' adjusted g using random effects. Results: Eleven studies were included in the meta-analyses, providing data on 1118 participants. Serum and plasma leptin levels were not altered in subjects with BD when compared to healthy controls in mania (g = -0.99, 95% CI -2.43 to 0.43, P = 0.171), in depression (g = 0.17, 95% CI -0.45 to 0.79, P = 0.584), or in euthymia (g = 0.03, 95% CI -0.39 to 0.46, P = 0.882). However, we did observe a stronger association between leptin levels and both age and BMI in patients with BD in euthymia compared to healthy controls, such that the greater the age of the individuals, the greater the difference in leptin levels between BD and controls; and the higher the BMI, the greater the difference in leptin levels between BD and controls. Conclusions: Our meta-analysis provides evidence that leptin levels are not altered in BD across the mood spectrum compared to healthy controls. The disproportionate increase of leptin levels with increase in BMI in BD speaks in favour of a potential inflammatory role of white adipose tissue in BD and a disproportionate increase of leptin levels with increase in age.
- Bipolar disorder