Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea: Hypoleptinemia and disordered eating

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology &amp Metabolism (Impact Factor: 6.31). 03/1999; 84(3):873-7. DOI: 10.1210/jc.84.3.873
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Because the exact etiology of functional, or idiopathic, hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) is still unknown, FHA remains a diagnosis of exclusion. The disorder may be stress induced. However, mounting evidence points to a metabolic/nutritional insult that may be the primary causal factor. We explored the thyroid, hormonal, dietary, behavior, and leptin changes that occur in FHA, as they provide a clue to the etiology of this disorder. Fourteen cycling control and amenorrheic nonathletic subjects were matched for age, weight, and height. The amenorrheic subjects denied eating disorders; only after further, detailed questioning did we uncover a higher incidence of anorexia and bulimia in this group. The amenorrheic subjects demonstrated scores of abnormal eating twice those found in normal subjects (P < 0.05), particularly bulimic type behavior (P < 0.01). They also expended more calories in aerobic activity per day and had higher fiber intakes (P < 0.05); lower body fat percentage (P < 0.05); and reduced levels of free T4 (P < 0.05), free T3 (P < 0.05), and total T4 (P < 0.05), without a significant change in rT3 or TSH. Cortisol averaged higher in the amenorrheics, but not significantly, whereas leptin values were significantly lower (P < 0.05). Bone mineral density was significantly lower in the wrist (P < 0.05), with a trend to lower BMD in the spine (P < 0.08). Scores of emotional distress and depression did not differ between groups. The alterations in eating patterns, leptin levels, and thyroid function present in subjects with FHA suggest altered nutritional status and the suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis or the alteration of feedback set-points in women with FHA. Both lower leptin and thyroid levels parallel changes seen with caloric restriction. Nutritional issues, particularly dysfunctional eating patterns and changes in thyroid metabolism, and/or leptin effects may also have a role in the metabolic signals suppressing GnRH secretion and the pathogenesis of osteopenia despite normal body weight. These findings suggest that the mechanism of amenorrhea and low leptin in these women results mainly from a metabolic/nutritional insult.

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    ABSTRACT: The amount of body fat and the energy balance are important factors that influence the timing of puberty and the normal reproductive function. Leptin is a key hormone that conveys to the central nervous system information about the individual energy reserve and modulates the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonad (HPG) axis. Recent findings suggest that the ventral premammillary nucleus (PMV) mediates the effects of leptin as a permissive factor for the onset of puberty and the coordinated secretion of luteinizing hormone during conditions of negative energy balance. In this review, we will summarize the existing literature about the potential role played by PMV neurons in the regulation of the HPG axis.
    Frontiers in Endocrinology 10/2011; 2:57. DOI:10.3389/fendo.2011.00057
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    ABSTRACT: Low concentrations of leptin secondary to low body fat or other modulators are thought to be a key signal whereby an energy deficit suppresses the reproductive axis in exercising women resulting in functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA). The purpose of this study was to first examine leptin concentrations in exercising women with and without FHA to address whether there is a threshold concentration of leptin below which reproductive function is suppressed. Secondly, we examined the role of adiposity and other possible modulators of leptin to ascertain whether leptin regulation differs depending on reproductive status. This study assessed 50 exercising, premenopausal women (aged 18-30 years) over the course of one menstrual cycle (eumenorrheic women) or one 28-day monitoring period (amenorrheic women). Quantification of daily urinary ovarian steroids and menstrual history were used to determine menstrual status. Body composition was assessed using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and leptin was determined by enzyme-linked immunoassay. Key modulators of leptin such as serum insulin concentration, carbohydrate intake, glucose availability, indirect indices of sympathetic nervous activity and other factors were assessed using linear regression. Percentage body fat (%BF) (21.0 ± 1.0 versus 26.8 ± 0.7%; P < 0.001) and leptin concentration (4.8 ± 0.8 versus 9.6 ± 0.9 ng/ml; P < 0.001) were lower in the exercising women with amenorrhea (ExAmen; n = 24) compared with the exercising ovulatory women (ExOvul; n = 26). However, the ranges in leptin were similar for each group (ExAmen: 0.30-16.98 ng/ml; ExOvul: 2.57-18.28 ng/ml), and after adjusting for adiposity the difference in leptin concentration was no longer significant. Significant predictors of log leptin in ExAmen included %BF (β = 0.826, P < 0.001), log insulin (β = 0.308, P = 0.012) and log glycerol (β = 0.258, P = 0.030), but in ExOvul only %BF predicted leptin. CONCLUSIONS These data suggest that leptin concentrations per se are not associated with FHA in exercising women, but the modulation of leptin concentrations may differ depending on reproductive status.
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