"Our study is the first to look at levels of spexin in the pediatric population," said one of the study authors Seema Kumar from Mayo Clinic Children's Centre in Minnesota, US.

Potentially tied to weight management, spexin is also believed to have a role in controlling arterial blood pressure as well as salt and water balance.

"Previous research has found reduced levels of this hormone in adults with obesity. Overall, our findings suggest spexin may play a role in weight gain, beginning at an early age," she added.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The study analysed spexin levels in 51 obese and 18 teenagers of normal weights between ages 12 and 18. The participants had blood samples taken between 2008 and 2010 as part of separate clinical trials.

Researchers tested the blood samples to measure spexin levels. They divided the teenagers into four groups based on their spexin levels. Among the participants with the lowest levels of spexin, the odds of having obesity were   a little more than five times higher than in the group with the highest levels of the hormone.

"It is noteworthy that we see such clear differences in spexin levels between obese and normal weight adolescents," Kumar said.

"Since this is a cross-sectional study, more research is needed to explore the physiological significance of spexin, how it may be involved in the development of childhood obesity, and whether it can be used to treat or manage the condition," she added.

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