Leptin has been hypothesized to play an important role in energy balance by affecting both energy intake and energy expenditure. The purpose of our study was to determine the relationship between fasting serum leptin concentrations and measures of energy expenditure in prepubertal children. We measured total energy expenditure (TEE; by the doubly labeled water technique), resting energy expenditure (REE; after an overnight fast), activity energy expenditure (AEE; TEE - REE), body composition (by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry), and fasting serum leptin concentration (by RIA) in 76 children. Simple correlations showed that all measures of energy expenditure (TEE, REE, and AEE) were positively related to the serum leptin concentration (r = 0.50, P < 0.001; r = 0.45, P < 0.001; and r = 0.30, P < 0.01, respectively). However, after adjusting for body composition (fat-free mass and fat mass), gender, and ethnicity, serum leptin concentrations were not related to any measure of energy expenditure (TEE, P = 0.61; REE, P = 0.97; AEE, P = 0.65). These latter findings were further confirmed using structural equation models with leptin and energy expenditure as dependent variables, and fat-free mass and fat mass as independent variables. Results from these models showed no direct effect of leptin and no indirect effect of fat mass (through leptin) on any measure of energy expenditure, when a path between fat mass and energy expenditure was present in the model. Thus, our data do not support the hypothesis that the serum leptin concentration (independent of fat mass) is related to measures of energy expenditure in children.