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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Oct;87(10):4607-10.

Circulating ghrelin levels in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome.

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  • 1Abteilung Gastroenterologie, Hepatologie und Endokrinologie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, D-30623 Hannover, Germany.


The syndrome of polycystic ovaries (PCOS) is associated with adiposity and metabolic changes predisposing to insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus. Because the recently discovered GH secretagogue, ghrelin, is intimately involved in the control of appetite and weight regulation, we studied ghrelin levels in a group of 26 otherwise healthy women with PCOS. They were compared with 61 healthy female control subjects and 5 gastrectomized women. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) and continuous infusion of glucose with model assessment (CIGMA) in all patients. In PCOS women, serum ghrelin levels were significantly lower than in healthy lean or obese controls (P < 0.001). In insulin-sensitive PCOS women, ghrelin concentrations compared well with the healthy controls, whereas in insulin-resistant PCOS ghrelin levels were significantly lower and indistinguishable from the low levels found in the gastrectomized women. There was a close correlation of ghrelin to insulin sensitivity (HOMA, r(2) = 0.330, P < 0.002; CIGMA, r(2) = 0.568, P < 0.0001). Treatment of 10 insulin-resistant PCOS women with metformin significantly increased circulating fasting ghrelin concentrations (P < 0.02). Ghrelin levels did not correlate to any of the parameters of hyperandrogenemia, to the LH/FSH ratio, to body mass index, or to fasting insulin and glucose concentrations. In summary, ghrelin levels are decreased in PCOS women and are highly correlated to the degree of insulin resistance. This suggests that ghrelin could be linked to insulin resistance in PCOS women. However, whether low ghrelin in PCOS is a cause or the consequence of insulin resistance awaits further investigations.

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