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Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

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Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Nervous System | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases


Neuropeptide Y (NPY), peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY), and pancreatic polypeptide (PP) are important mediators in the bidirectional communication along the gut-brain-axis. Best known for their role in the regulation of appetite and food intake they are considered to play a crucial role in the development of obesity. Additionally, mounting evidence indicates a regulatory function in anxiety, mood and stress resilience with potential sex differences. In the present study, we examined the associations of NPY, PYY, and PP plasma levels with anxiety, depressiveness and perceived stress in obese patients. We analyzed 144 inpatients (90 female, 54 male, BMI mean: 49.4 kg/m(2)) in a naturalistic treatment setting for obesity and its somatic and mental comorbidities. Fasting blood samples were taken, and patients completed psychometric self-assessment questionnaires (GAD-7, PHQ-9, PSQ-20) within the first week after admission and before discharge. Plasma concentrations of the peptides were measured by ELISA. Women showed significant higher anxiety (GAD-7: 8.13 +/- 5.67 vs. 5.93 +/- 5.42, p = 0.04) and stress scores (PSQ-20: 52.62 +/- 23.5 vs. 41.23 +/- 22.53, p = 0.01) than men. In the longitudinal analysis women with a clinically relevant improvement of anxiety ( > /= 5 points on GAD-7, p < 0.001) also showed significant improvements in depression (PHQ-9: 38%, p = 0.002) and PSQ-20 scores (23%, p = 0.005) while anxiety-improved male patients only improved in the subscale tension of the PSQ-20 (34%, p = 0.02). In men we observed a positive correlation of PP with anxiety scores (GAD-7: r = 0.41, p = 0.007) and with age (r = 0.49, p = 0.001) on admission while NPY negatively correlated with age (r = -0.38, p = 0.01). In contrast, there were no significant associations (p > 0.05) in female subjects in the cross-sectional as well as in the longitudinal analysis. In conclusion, women suffering from morbid obesity showed greater psychological comorbidity and considerable interactions among them. Despite that we solely observed associations of PP with anxiety and age with NPY and PP in men, suggesting a possible influence of sex hormones on the NPY system. However, improvement of anxiety scores did not lead to significant changes in NPY.


brain-gut axis, depression, eating disorder, gut-brain axis, obesity, peptide YY, psychosomatic, stress

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Copyright © 2020 Schaper, Hofmann, Wölk, Weibert, Rose and Stengel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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Schaper SJ, Hofmann T, Wölk E, Weibert E, Rose M, Stengel A. Pancreatic Polypeptide but Not Other Members of the Neuropeptide Y Family Shows a Moderate Association With Perceived Anxiety in Obese Men. Front Hum Neurosci. 2020 Oct 19;14:578578. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.578578. PMID: 33192409; PMCID: PMC7604387. Link to article on publisher's site

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Frontiers in human neuroscience

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.