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Leptin status in adolescence is associated with academic performance in high school: a cross-sectional study in a Chilean birth cohort
  1. Paulina Correa-Burrows1,
  2. Estela Blanco2,
  3. Marcela Reyes1,
  4. Marcela Castillo1,
  5. Patricio Peirano1,
  6. Cecilia Algarín1,
  7. Betsy Lozoff3,
  8. Sheila Gahagan2,
  9. Raquel Burrows1
  1. 1Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile, Santiago de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  2. 2Child Development and Community Health Division, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  3. 3Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paulina Correa-Burrows; paulina.correa{at}


Objective Leptin is a pleiotropic hormone associated with learning and memory via brain receptors. However, elevated plasma leptin levels may impair cognitive and memory functions. Since individual differences in memory performance affect students’ ability to learn, we aimed to study the relation between leptin status in adolescence and school performance.

Design and setting We studied 568 adolescents aged 16–17 years from Santiago. A cross-sectional analysis was carried out on a birth cohort conducted in Santiago (Chile).

Primary and secondary outcome measures We measured serum leptin concentration using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cut-offs from the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) Study for 16-year-olds were used to define abnormally high leptin levels (hyperleptinaemia). Academic performance was measured using high-school grades and grade point average (GPA). Data were collected in 2009–2012; data analysis was performed in 2014.

Results 15% of participants had hyperleptinaemia. They had significantly lower school grades and GPA compared with participants with normal leptin levels (eg, GPA mean difference=33.8 points). Leptin levels were negative and significantly correlated with school grades in 9th, 10th and 12th. Similarly, it was negatively correlated with high-school GPA. After controlling for health, sociodemographic and education confounders, the chances of having a performance ≥75th centile in students having hyperleptinaemia were 32% (95% CI 0.19% to 0.89%) that of students having normal serum leptin concentration.

Conclusions In high school students, abnormally high levels of leptin were associated with poorer academic performance. These findings support the idea of a relationship between leptin and cognition. Further research is needed on the cognitive effects of leptin in younger populations.

  • leptin
  • hyperleptinemia
  • cognition
  • academic performance
  • adolescents

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  • Contributors PC and RB articulated the conceptual framework and wrote the first draft. PC developed the analytical approach and analysed the data. PC, RB, EB, MR, MC, CA, PP, BL and SG contributed to the final study design, interpretation of data and added intellectual content during manuscript preparation. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (HL088530, PI: Gahagan), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD14122, PI: Lozoff, and HD33487, PI: Lozoff and Gahagan) and the National Council for Scientific Research and Technology (CONICYT) (Chile) (PAI-79140003, PI: Correa-Burrows and FONDECYT-1160240, PI: Correa-Burrows).

  • Disclaimer The funding organisations had no role in study design; collection, analysis and interpretation of data; writing the manuscript; and the decision to submit it for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the University of Michigan, Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (University of Chile) and the University of California, San Diego.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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