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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 Dec;29(12):2154-7.

Ghrelin levels are increased in alcoholism.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Erlangen, Germany. thomas.kraus@psych.imed.uni-erlangen.de



The neuropeptides leptin and ghrelin are involved in the appetite regulating network consisting of distinct orexigenic (ghrelin) and anorexigenic (leptin) circuitries. Recently, it has been shown that elevated leptin levels are associated with alcohol craving in patients suffering from alcoholism. Therefore, the aim of the present pilot study was to determine whether the gut-derived peptide ghrelin which increases hunger and food intake is altered and associated with alcohol craving in alcoholic patients


Two types of alcoholic inpatients, group A (active drinker, acutely intoxicated, n=97) and group B (early abstainer, who had stopped drinking 24-72 hrs before, n=21) were consecutively included in a prospective study from the first day of hospitalization. Ghrelin plasma levels and craving data were assessed on days 0, 1, 2 and 7(-10) and compared to those of 24 healthy controls


At each time-point ghrelin plasma levels of alcoholic patients were significantly increased compared to healthy subjects. Furthermore, early abstainers showed significantly higher ghrelin levels than active drinkers. In the group of active drinkers ghrelin plasma levels were significantly increased at each time point compared to baseline. No correlations were found between ghrelin levels and craving data measured by the visual analogue scale or the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale


Ghrelin levels are elevated in alcoholism and seem to further increase during alcohol withdrawal. However, ghrelin levels do not seem to be associated with alcohol craving.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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