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27-04-2010 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Circulating BDNF linked with metabolic and cardiovascular health


Free abstract

MedWire News: Plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are associated with several risk factors for the metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular dysfunction, researchers report.

But it remains unknown whether BDNF contributes to the pathogenesis of these disorders or functions in adaptive responses to cellular stress, as occurs in the brain.

BDNF is involved in learning and memory formation, explain Bronwen Martin (National Institutes on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) and co-workers.

Studies in animals have shown that conditions linked to metabolic and cardiovascular dysfunction, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, can be modified by manipulating BDNF in the brain and peripheral circulation.

Animal studies have also supported a role for BDNF in energy homeostasis, and human research has linked severe hyperphagia and early-onset obesity to functional loss of one copy of the BDNF gene.

To investigate further, Martin et al measured plasma BDNF in 496 healthy middle-aged and elderly individuals, with a mean age of approximately 70 years.

Linear regression analysis showed that plasma BDNF was associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome, irrespective of age.

Among women, BDNF positively correlated with body mass index, fat mass, diastolic blood pressure, plasma total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and inversely correlated with folate levels.

In men, plasma BDNF positively correlated with diastolic blood pressure, plasma triglycerides, free thiiodo-thyronine, and bio-available testosterone, and inversely correlated with sex-hormone binding globulin and adiponectin levels.

“The significant correlation between plasma BDNF, plasma lipids, and diastolic blood pressure in both males and females strongly suggests that plasma BDNF is important for cardiovascular health,” the researchers write in the journal PLoS One.

They suggest: “In addition to potentially playing a direct role in atherogenesis, plasma BDNF may be a regulator of lipid metabolism and blood pressure control.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Anita Wilkinson