OBJECTIVES. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency is the most common inherited disorder of adrenal steroid biosynthesis. Patients with the classic form of CAH show androgen excess, with or without salt wasting. There are few studies reporting on higher rates of overweight and obesity among children with CAH. In addition to its role in the regulation of energy balance, leptin is involved in various endocrine and metabolic pathways. In this context, elevated serum leptin levels were reported recently for patients with CAH and were thought to be involved in the development of obesity among these patients. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze BMI values, compared with population-based references, for children and adolescents with CAH. Possible contributing factors, such as glucocorticoid therapy, skeletal maturation, birth weight and length, and parental BMI, were correlated with current BMI SD scores (SDS). In addition, the implications of serum leptin levels, corrected for BMI, gender, and Tanner stage, were investigated.

METHODS. We performed a cross-sectional retrospective study of 89 children and adolescents with cah (48 female and 41 male subjects; age: 0.2-17.9 years) who presented in our outpatient department during 1 year. All individuals had classic cah, confirmed with molecular genetic analyses, and received substitution therapy (glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, if necessary). The quality of therapy was monitored in follow-up visits every 3 to 6 months, on the basis of clinical presentation and laboratory measurement findings according to current guidelines. We grouped the patients into salt wasting and simple virilizing groups, as well as according to current metabolic control. Leptin levels were measured with a commercial radioimmunoassay and calculated as sds. For statistical analyses, standard parametric and nonparametric methods were used.

RESULTS. The chronologic ages of the children with CAH were between 0.20 and 17.9 years (mean ± SD: 8.9 ± 4.6 years). The BMI SDS of the whole group ranged from −2.7 to 4.3 (mean ± SD: 0.88 ± 1.3) and was significantly elevated above 0. Fifteen subjects (16.8%) had BMI SDS of >2.0, which indicated a significantly greater frequency of obesity among patients with CAH than expected for the normal population (expected: 2.27%). There was no significant difference in age and BMI between genders and clinical forms (salt wasting versus simple virilizing). BMI SDS was correlated positively with chronologic age. The BMI SDS did not differ significantly between children receiving hydrocortisone, prednisone, or dexamethasone. Hydrocortisone dosages (including equivalent dosages of prednisone and dexamethasone) ranged from 6.2 to 30.1 mg/m2 body surface area (mean ± SD: 14.7 ± 4.8 mg/m2 body surface area). Hydrocortisone dosages were correlated positively with BMI SDS. The relative risk of having a BMI SDS of >2.0 was not significantly elevated among children with prednisone/dexamethasone medication, compared with those with hydrocortisone treatment. In contrast to this, fludrocortisone dosage was not correlated with BMI SDS. Bone age delay, as calculated from the difference of bone age and chronologic age, ranged from −2.9 years to 5.6 years (mean ± SD: 1.11 ± 1.8 years) and was significantly elevated; it was correlated positively with BMI SDS. The BMI of parents ranged from 17.8 to 39.0 kg/m2 (median: 24.2 kg/m2). Median BMI values did not differ significantly between fathers and mothers. The relative risk for obesity among our children (BMI SDS of >2.0) was significantly elevated for children with obese parents, compared with those with nonobese parents (relative risk: 4.86). There was no significant correlation of birth length, birth weight, or gestational age with BMI SDS. Serum leptin values ranged from 0.10 to 32 μg/L (median: 4.4 μg/L); they were correlated positively with BMI SDS, chronologic age, and Tanner stage. After transformation into leptin concentration SDS values, the median SDS of 0.42 (range: −5.4 to 3.1) did not differ significantly from 0.

CONCLUSIONS. Children and adolescents with CAH have a higher risk of obesity. Glucocorticoid dosage, chronologic age, advanced bone age maturation, and parental obesity contributed to elevated BMI SDS, whereas birth weight and length, serum leptin levels, used glucocorticoid, and fludrocortisone dosage were not associated with obesity. Therefore, children with CAH who become obese should be tightly monitored and should participate concurrently in weight management programs that include obese family members.

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