Plasma leptin, ghrelin and adiponectin concentrations in young fit racehorses versus mature unfit standardbreds

Mary E. Gordon, Kenneth H. McKeever, Cynthia L. Betros, Helio C. Manso Filho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations


Concentrations of hormones related to energy homeostasis may differ between populations with varied body compositions, acting as signals to increase or decrease energy intake and/or expenditure. How these parameters correlate with body composition in horses and how they vary in fit (F) versus unfit (UF) Standardbred racehorses is unclear. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that plasma concentrations of glucose (GLU), insulin (INS), cortisol (CORT), ghrelin (GHRL), adiponectin (ADIP) and leptin (LEP) would be correlated with body composition and differ in fit (F) versus unfit (UF) horses. Fasting plasma samples were taken from 12 unfit (11 ± 2 years, 521 ± 77 kg; mean ± SD) and 34 fit (4 ± 2 years, 475 ± 83 kg) Standardbred horses. GHRL, LEP, ADIP, INS and CORT concentrations were measured using radioimmunoassay. GLU concentration was measured using colorometric kits. Body composition data included body weight, body condition score (BCS), and percent fat (%fat) calculated using rump fat thickness measured ultrasonically and the Westervelt equation. Data were analyzed using Pearson Product moment and Student's t tests. There were no differences (P > 0.05) between F and UF horses for the plasma concentrations of CORT (69 ± 14 versus 76 ± 23 μg/dL), INS (7.2 ± 3.5 versus 7.1 ± 1.8 μIU/mL) or GLU (90 ± 6 versus 86 ± 7 mg/dL). Plasma GHRL and ADIP concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) in F versus UF horses (54 ± 27 versus 33 ± 17 pg/mL and 1820 ± 276 versus 1333 ± 249 ng/mL, respectively), while plasma LEP was lower in F versus UF (1.0 ± 0.6 versus 4.4 ± 2.4 ng/mL, P < 0.001). BCS and %fat were lower in F versus UF horses (4.8 ± 0.3 versus 6.7 ± 0.5 and 11.9 ± 1.6 versus 15.4 ± 2.5%, respectively), with no correlation between %fat and GHRL (-0.12, P > 0.05), although there was a positive correlation between %fat and LEP (+0.72, P < 0.05), and a negative correlation between %fat and ADIP (-0.40, P < 0.05). The data show that in comparing fit and unfit horses, there are variations in body composition as well as concurrent and substantial differences in the concentrations of hormones, cytokines, and other parameters related to the control of appetite and feed intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalVeterinary Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


  • Adipocytokines
  • Body composition
  • Ghrelin
  • Horse

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