, Volume 236, Issue 2, pp 753–762 | Cite as

Sex difference in the association of body mass index and BDNF levels in Chinese patients with chronic schizophrenia

  • Fang Yang
  • Keming Wang
  • Xiangdong Du
  • Huiqiong Deng
  • Hanjing Emily Wu
  • Guangzhong Yin
  • Yuping Ning
  • Xingbing Huang
  • Antonio L. Teixeira
  • João de Quevedo
  • Jair C. Soares
  • Xiaosi Li
  • XiaoE LangEmail author
  • Xiang Yang ZhangEmail author
Original Investigation


Rationale and objective

Schizophrenia displays sex differences in many aspects. Decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels have been reported to be associated with high body weight or obesity as well as other psychopathological aspects in schizophrenia patients. This study aimed to explore sex differences in the relationship between serum BDNF levels and obesity in patients with chronic schizophrenia.


We recruited 132 Chinese patients with chronic schizophrenia (98 males and 34 females) and compared sex differences in the body mass index (BMI), obesity, serum BDNF levels, and their associations. Psychopathology symptoms were assessed using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). A regression model with various demographic and clinical variables was applied to predict the serum levels of BDNF.


Female patients had a higher rate of obesity and higher BMI, but lower BDNF levels than male schizophrenia patients. A significantly negative correlation was observed between BMI and BDNF levels only in female patients but not in male patients. The multiple regression model with demographic and clinical variables significantly predicted BDNF levels only in female patients, with a medium size effect. And only in female patients, BMI made a significant contribution to this prediction.


Our results indicate significant sex differences in the obesity, BMI, BDNF levels, and their association in chronic patients with schizophrenia, showing a significant inverse correlation between BMI and BDNF levels only in female patients. Thus, sex needs to be considered when assessing the relationship between BDNF and metabolic syndromes in schizophrenia.


Schizophrenia Sex difference Brain-derived neurotrophic factor Obesity Body mass index 


Funding information

Funding for this study was provided by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81371477), Suzhou Key Medical Center for Psychiatric Diseases (Szzx201509), and Suzhou Key laboratory for Biological Psychiatry (SZS201722). These sources had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

The research protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board, Beijing Hui-Long-Guan hospital (BHLGH). A psychiatrist explained the research protocol and procedures to the potential subject using language appropriate to the subject’s level of comprehension and emotional readiness. All subjects gave written informed consent to participate in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fang Yang
    • 1
  • Keming Wang
    • 2
  • Xiangdong Du
    • 3
  • Huiqiong Deng
    • 1
  • Hanjing Emily Wu
    • 1
  • Guangzhong Yin
    • 3
  • Yuping Ning
    • 4
  • Xingbing Huang
    • 4
  • Antonio L. Teixeira
    • 1
  • João de Quevedo
    • 1
  • Jair C. Soares
    • 1
  • Xiaosi Li
    • 2
  • XiaoE Lang
    • 5
    Email author
  • Xiang Yang Zhang
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, McGovern Medical SchoolThe University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Hefei Fourth People’s HospitalAnhui Mental Health CenterHefeiChina
  3. 3.Suzhou Psychiatric HospitalThe Affiliated Guangji Hospital of Soochow UniversitySuzhouChina
  4. 4.The Affiliated Brain Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University (Guangzhou Huiai Hospital)GuangzhouChina
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry, The First Clinical Medical CollegeShanxi Medical UniversityTaiyuanChina
  6. 6.Institute of PsychologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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