Mara Cristina Lofrano-Prado, Wagner Luiz do Prado, Mauro Virgílio Gomes de Barros, Lila Missae Oyama, Michelle Cardel, Sandra Lopes-de-Souza
Lofrano-Prado et al., J Clin Transl Res 2016; 2(4): 129-134
Published online: 12 December, 2016


Background: Beyond classical eating disorders' symptoms (ED) related to unhealthy eating habits, which are not always recognized until late stage, ED may be also associated with non-traditional and objective biomarkers which may be an important screening tool supporting health professionals involved in ED prevention and treatment. 

 Aim: To investigate the associations between non-traditional physiological biomarkers and symptoms of ED among female college students. 

 Methods: Participants were 113 female college students, aged 18 to 23 years, and enrolled in their first semester as a Bachelor of Health Sciences undergrad. Symptoms of ED were measured by self-report questionnaires. Circulating levels of IL-6, IL-10, leptin, insulin, ghrelin, PYY and adiponectin were assessed. 

 Results: Students with symptoms of ED presented higher values of IL-6 (p = 0.03) and leptin (p < 0.001) compared to those ones without symptoms. A positive correlation was found between leptin with bulimia nervosa (r = 0.42; p = 0.00) and binge eating (r=0.38; p=0.00), and between IL-6 with binge eating (r = 0.25; p = 0.04). Multiple linear regression with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating as dependent variables showed that IL-6 and leptin provided the best model to explain the symptoms of ED, even when adjusted for BMI. 

Conclusions: These findings suggest that peripheral peptides, namely leptin and IL-6, are associated with symptoms of ED in female college students. Future studies are needed to determine if there is a causal relationship between these biomarkers and the onset of ED. 

Relevance for patients: If future longitudinal studies demonstrated a causality between the biomarkers here assessed with ED symptoms, health professionals will be able to use these biomarkers as an additional screening tool for inappropriate eating behaviors, leading to significant implications for clinical treatment of ED, eventually improving the long term patient's outcomes avoiding the onset of ED.


Author affiliations

1 Psychology Institute, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil 

2 Department of Human Movement Sciences, Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil 

3 School of Physical Education, University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil 

4 Department of Physiology, Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil 

5 School of Medicine, Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States 

6 Department of Anatomy, Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, PE, Brazil

*Corresponding author: 

Sandra Lopes de Souza 

Department of Anatomy, Federal University of Pernambuco, Av. Prof. Moraes Rego, 1235, Cidade Universitária, 50670-420, Recife, PE, Brazil 


Handling editor:

Rowan van Golen 

Department of Experimental Surgery, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands


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