SERUM VISFATIN LEVELS IN PATIENTS WITH ANOREXIA NERVOSA AND
Dostálová I1, Sedlá?ková D2, Papežová H3, Nedvídková J2 and Haluzík M1
13rd Department of Medicine, 1st Faculty of Medicine and General University Hospital,
Prague, 2Institute of Endocrinology, Laboratory of Clinical and Experimental
Neuroendocrinology, Prague, 3Department of Psychiatry, 1st Faculty of Medicine and
General University Hospital, Prague, Czech Republic.
Short Title: visfatin in eating disorders
Martin Haluzik, Prof., MD, DSc
3rd Department of Medicine, 1st Faculty of Medicine
U Nemocnice 1, 128 00 Prague 2
Tel.: +420 224962908
Visfatin is an adipose tissue-derived hormone shown to correlate with visceral fat mass in
patients with obesity. Its possible role in patients with different types of eating disorders is
unknown. We measured fasting serum levels of visfatin and leptin and surrogate measures of
insulin sensitivity in ten untreated patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), ten untreated patients
with bulimia nervosa (BN) and twenty age-matched healthy women (C) to study the possible
role of visfatin in these disorders. Patients with AN had severely decreased body mass index
(BMI) and body fat content. BMI of BN group did not significantly differ from that of C
group, whereas body fat content of BN group was significantly lower compared to C and
higher compared to AN group, respectively. Serum glucose levels did not significantly differ
among the groups studied, whereas serum insulin and leptin levels and HOMA index were
significantly decreased in AN group relative to both C and BN group. In contrast, serum
visfatin levels in both patients with AN and BN did not differ from those of C group. We
conclude that circulating visfatin levels are not affected by the presence of chronic
malnutrition in AN or binge/purge eating behavior in BN.
Key words: anorexia nervosa • bulimia nervosa • visfatin • adipose tissue
Visfatin is a novel adipokine originally described to be produced predominantly by
visceral adipose tissue and to exert insulin-mimetic and adipogenic effects (Fukuhara et al.
2005). Contrary to the initial report (Fukuhara et al. 2005), further studies concerning the
association of visfatin with obesity and diabetes have brought up controversial results (Haider
et al. 2006, Jian et al. 2006, Lopez-Bermejo et al. 2006, Chen et al. 2007, Dogru et al. 2007,
Sandeep et al. 2007, Varma et al. 2007). Furthermore, the predominant contribution of
visceral over subcutaneous fat depot to serum visfatin in humans has been questioned by
some studies (Berndt et al. 2007). The effect of weight loss on circulating concentrations of
visfatin in obese patients has been numerously documented, but the results are rather
conflicting (Haider et al. 2006, Krzyzanowska et al. 2006, Manco et al. 2007).
It is currently unclear whether visfatin represents a marker of fat mass and/or function or
whether it may also exert a direct regulatory role in energy metabolism. To our best
knowledge, the changes and possible role of visfatin in the pathophysiology of eating
disorders have not been described so far. The restrictive form of Anorexia Nervosa (AN)
represents an extreme example of psychosomatic-based malnutrition induced by chronically
decreased food intake caused by inappropriate fear of obesity and distorted body image (1994
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). 4th ed. Washington, DC:
American Psychiatric Association). As a consequence of this abnormal self-body attitude, the
severe weight and fat loss occurs in these patients. Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is an eating
disorder characterized, in contrast to AN, by normal or even slightly higher body mass index
(BMI). Patients with BN suffer from repeated episodes of binge eating combined with
inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain such as self-induced vomiting,
misuse of laxatives, diuretics, fasting, and excessive exercise (1994 Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric
Association). The presence of both AN and BN affects body weight and fat mass and
consequently energy metabolism differently, but both eating disorders are associated with
alterations of various hormones, including adipokines (Baranowska et al. 2001, Monteleone
et al. 2002, Housova et al. 2005, Dostalova et al. 2006, Krizova et al. 2007, Haluzikova et al.
2008). These endocrine abnormalities might contribute to the pathophysiology of AN and BN
(Dostalova et al. 2006, Dostalova et al. 2007, Modan-Moses et al. 2007, Dolezalova et al.
We measured circulating concentrations of visfatin in ten previously untreated female
patients with restrictive subtype of AN, ten previously untreated female patients with BN and
twenty age-matched healthy women to study its possible role in the pathophysiology of
eating disorders. The characteristic of the study subjects is shown in Table 1.
The diagnosis of eating disorders was based on the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV
diagnostic system (1994 DSM-IV, 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric
Association). A clinical evaluation of the patients was performed by an experienced
psychiatrist. The structured Clinical Interview MINI 5.0 was used for diagnostic assessment
of patients. Patients were hospitalized on the Department of Psychiatry throughout the study.
None of the studied subjects suffered from diabetes mellitus, thyroid disorder, and/or acute
infectious disorder. All patients with AN had amenorrhea, whereas all patients with BN and
healthy women were examined in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Body weight of
studied patients remained stable for at least 3 months prior the study. Written informed
consent was provided by all participants before being enrolled in the study. The study was
approved by the Human Ethical Review Committee, Institute of Endocrinology, Prague,
Czech Republic, and was performed in accordance with the guidelines proposed in the
Declaration of Helsinki.
All subjects were measured and weighted. Body fat content was estimated by
bioimpedance analysis (Bodystat 1500, Bodystat Ltd., UK). Blood samples for visfatin
evaluation were withdrawn between 0700 and 0800 h after 12 h of overnight fasting into
tubes with aprotinin (500 U/liter). The serum was separated by centrifugation and stored at -
80 °C until being assayed. Serum visfatin concentrations were measured by a commercial
EIA kit (Phoenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., CA, USA). The sensitivity was 1.8 ng/ml, and the
intra- and interassay variability was 5% and 14%, respectively. Serum insulin concentrations
were measured by commercial RIA kit (Cis Bio International, Gif-sur-Yvette, France).
Sensitivity was 2.0 µIU/ml, and the intra- and interassay variability was 4.2 and 8.8 %,
respectively. Serum glucose concentrations were measured in the Department of
Biochemistry of General University Hospital by standard laboratory methods. Homeostasis
model assessment (HOMA-R) index was calculated as previously described (Matthews et al.
1985) using the following formula: fasting serum insulin (mIU/l) x fasting serum glucose
(mmol/l)/22.5. The statistical analysis was performed on SigmaStat Software (Jandel
Scientific, San Rafael, CA). The results are expressed as means ± SEM. The groups were
compared by one-way ANOVA on ranks. Differences between groups were evaluated using
unpaired t-test and Mann-Whitney rank sum test as appropriate.
The main results of the study are summarized in Table 1. Patients with AN were
extremely malnourished as evidenced by severely decreased BMI, percent of body fat and
reduced serum leptin levels. BMI of BN group did not significantly differ from that of C
group, whereas percent body fat of BN group was significantly lower and higher as compared
to C and AN group, respectively. Fasting serum visfatin levels in either AN or BN group
were not significantly different as compared to control group. Fasting serum glucose levels
did not significantly differ among the groups studied, whereas fasting serum insulin and
leptin levels were significantly decreased in patients with AN relative to both C and BN
group. Serum insulin and leptin levels in BN group tended to be lower relative to C and
higher relative to AN group, respectively, but these differences did not reach statistical
significance. HOMA index values paralleled serum insulin levels, being markedly decreased
in AN group, whereas no significant difference between BN and C group was found (Table
The reduction of BMI significantly correlated with the changes of circulating visfatin
levels after weight loss in some (Haider et al. 2006, Choi et al. 2007), but not all
(Krzyzanowska et al. 2006) previous studies. However, all these studies were performed in
obese patients undergoing bariatric surgery (Haider et al. 2006, Krzyzanowska et al. 2006,
Manco et al. 2007, Garcia-Fuentez et al. 2007) or low-caloric diet combined with exercise
training programme (Choi et al. 2007). The groups of patients as well as the conditions of
these studies are thus absolutely incomparable with chronic malnutrition of our patients with
AN. Here we show that circulating levels of visfatin are not primarily related to the specific
eating disorder. Furthemore, unchanged visfatin levels in patients with AN and BN do not
support the thesis that visceral fat mass is a major determinant of this hormone in patients
with these eating disorders (Zamboni et al. 1997). An alternative explanation could be that
circulating levels of visfatin may not accurately reflect its production and/or function in
peripheral tissues, including adipose tissue. We and others have previously shown that
circulating levels of adipokines do not necessarily mirror its tissue levels (Hotamisligil and
Spiegelman 1994, Dostalova et al. 2006, Dolezalova et al. 2007). Thus, we can not exclude
the possibility that, although circulating levels of visfatin are unchanged, local visfatin effects
(e.g., glucose uptake by adipocytes) within the adipose tissue might be altered in patients
with eating disorders. Another possible explanation of unaltered visfatin levels in patients
with AN could lie in the differences in its clearence in patients with AN (Fukuhara et al.
2005, Berndt et al. 2007).
In summary, our data show that circulating visfatin levels are not affected either by the
presence of chronic malnutrition in patients with AN or binge/purge eating behavior in
patients with BN. Further investigation is needed to clarify the possible role of visfatin in
eating disorders or its metabolic complications
This study was supported by IGA MHCR no. NR9158-3 and MZO 0064165.
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