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Francesca Galbiati, MD





Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital


Endocrinology, Neuroendocrinology


Francesca Galbiati, Marie-Louis Wronski, Anna Aulinas Maso, Maged Muhammed, Regine Boutin, Liya Kerem, C. Sue Carter, Hans Nazarloo, John M. Davis, Katherine Holman, Julia Gydus, Sarah Smith, Elisa Asanza, Miriam Bredella, Martin Torriani, Franziska Plessow, Elizabeth A. Lawson

Principal Investigator

Elizabeth A. Lawson


Sex-Specific and Shared Associations Between Vasopressin Levels and Body Composition in Adults with Obesity


Background: Arginine-vasopressin (AVP) is a sexually dimorphic neurohormone shown to have favorable metabolic effects, including reducing food intake, inducing lipolysis, and promoting muscle regeneration in male mice. However, little is known about AVP metabolic effects in humans. We hypothesized that (i) AVP reflects energy availability, and in adults with obesity integrated AVP levels around a standardized meal would positively correlate with BMI, adiposity, and lean mass; (ii) relationships between AVP and body composition would differ by sex.

Methods: Cross-sectional study of 53 adults with obesity (56% females; age [mean±SD] 33.7±6.2 years; BMI 36.9±4.9 kg/m2). Area under the curve (AUC) for an integrated AVP measure was computed from fasting, 30, 60, 120 minute timepoints around a standardized meal. Body composition was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (total fat, truncal fat, lean mass) and magnetic resonance imaging (abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat). Multiple linear regression investigated the relationship between AVP and body composition; Fisher’s Z test compared correlation coefficients across sexes.

Results: Age, AVP AUC, BMI, truncal and subcutaneous fat did not differ between sexes (p’s≥0.09). Total fat mass (p=0.013) was higher while total lean mass (p<0.0001) and visceral fat (p=0.001) were lower in females. AVP AUC was positively correlated with BMI (rs=0.36, p=0.008), total fat mass (r=0.33, p=0.013), truncal fat (r=0.35; p=0.010), abdominal subcutaneous fat (r=0.30, p=0.028), total lean mass (r=0.38, p=0.005). Within sex-based groups, AVP AUC positively correlated with subcutaneous fat mass males only (r=0.56, p=0.004) only (by Fisher’s Z test, p=0.024).

Conclusions: Our data in humans showing a link between integrated AVP and body composition support preclinical data indicating that AVP is a metabolically active hormone. Additionally, we identified sex differences in the relationship between AVP and subcutaneous fat mass. Further investigation of sex-specific and shared metabolic effects of AVP in humans will be important.”

Research Context

The metabolic role of vasopressin (AVP) is well established in animal models and AVP is known to be a sexually dimorphic hormone, however, little is known about sex differences of AVP in relation to metabolism. Obesity is a condition accompanied by alterations in body composition that directly contribute to cardiovascular risk. Body composition is under sex hormone control and differs across sexes. Furthermore, pre-clinical studies suggest that testosterone, the main male sex hormone, could stimulate AVP production. Our study demonstrates that while some relationships between AVP levels and body composition variables in adults with obesity are present in both sexes, there is a robust correlation between AVP and subcutaneous fat mass in men that is absent in women. Our data support differences in pathways underlying body composition disruption in obesity across sexes, highlighting the potential for different therapeutic approaches for obesity.