Childhood Metabolic Abnormalities Linked to Adult Psychiatric Symptoms

Mitchel L. Zoler, PhD, for Medscape

December 03, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Childhood levels of the metabolic hormones leptin and adiponectin are associated with depressive and psychosis negative symptoms in early adulthood.

  • These associations tended to be stronger in women compared with men.

  • General immunometabolic factors are associated with both depressive and psychotic symptoms.

  • Inflammatory factors are associated with depressive episodes and atypical depressive symptoms in women.

Why This Matters

  • The findings support the hypothesis that childhood immunometabolic alterations contribute to the risk for depressive and psychotic disorders in adulthood.

Study Design

  • Data are from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort and included 15,589 births among UK women in 1990-1997, and 14,901 of these children were alive at 1-years-old.

  • The study included measurement of three hormones, leptin, insulin, and adiponectin, as well as six general immunometabolic factors, body mass index, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, interleukin-6, and C-reactive protein (CRP), when the children were 9-years-old.

  • Researchers assessed psychiatric outcomes among these children when they were 24-years-old using interviews and various questionnaires.

Key Results

  • Childhood leptin levels showed a strong trend toward adult depressive episodes, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.28, and were significantly linked with negative symptoms, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.12.

  • The general immunometabolic factor, a measure calculated using data from the three hormones and the six other immunometabolic factors, was significantly associated with depressive symptoms, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.05, and with psychotic experiences, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.20.

  • The adiposity factor was significantly associated with negative symptoms, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.07.

  • In women, the inflammatory factor was significantly associated with depressive episodes, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.23, and with atypical depressive symptoms, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.10.


  • Missing data, which were not missing in a completely random way. Analysis showed that social class and education influenced consistent participation in the study.

  • The study used an exploratory analytic approach to derive the various immunometabolic factors assessed, and the methods used to calculate factor scores were therefore imprecise.


  • The study received no commercial support.

  • None of the authors had commercial disclosures.

This is a summary of a preprint research study written by a team of researchers based primarily at the University of Bristol, UK, on MedRxiv provided to you by Medscape. This study has not yet been peer-reviewed. The full text of the study can be found on


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