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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Feb;89(2):936-9.

The relationship between active ghrelin levels and human obesity involves alterations in resting energy expenditure.

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Operative Unit of Internal Medicine, Ospedale S. Giuseppe, Instituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Istituto Auxologico Italiano, 28921 Verbania, Italy.


Ghrelin is a gastric hormone that exerts a stimulatory effect on appetite and fat accumulation. Ser(3) octanoylation is regarded as a prerequisite for ghrelin biological activity, although des-octanoylated forms may retain biological functions in vitro. Circulating ghrelin levels are usually low in obesity and in states of positive energy balance. Hence, the aim of our study was to analyze plasma active and serum total ghrelin levels in 20 obese (ages, 22-42 yr; body mass index, 41.3 +/- 1.1 kg/m(2)) and 20 lean subjects (ages, 22-43 yr; body mass index, 22.4 +/- 0.6 kg/m(2)) as well as their relationship to measures of glucose homeostasis, body fat, and resting energy expenditure (REE). The measured/predicted REE percentage ratio was calculated to subdivide groups into those with positive (> or = 100% ) and negative (<100%) ratio values. In obese patients, plasma active (180 +/- 18 vs. 411 +/- 57 pg/ml; P < 0.001) and serum total ghrelin levels (3650 +/- 408 vs. 5263 +/- 643 pg/ml; P < 0.05) were significantly lower when compared with lean subjects. Hence, ghrelin activity, defined as the proportion of active over total ghrelin levels, was similarly reduced in the obese state (6.1 +/- 0.9% vs. 8.4 +/- 1%; P < 0.05). There was a significant correlation between active and total ghrelin (r = 0.62; P < 0.001), and between total ghrelin and insulin (r = -0.53; P < 0.001) or insulin resistance using the homeostatis model of assessment-insulin resistance (r = -0.49; P < 0.001) approach. Significantly higher active ghrelin levels (214 +/- 22 vs. 159 +/- 30 pg/ml; P < 0.05) and ghrelin activity (8 +/- 1.7% vs. 4.9 +/- 0.9%; P < 0.05) were observed in patients with positive compared with negative measured/predicted REE ratio values. Our study shows that obesity is associated with an impairment of the entire ghrelin system. The observation that ghrelin is further decreased in cases of abnormal energy profit adds new evidence to the relationship between ghrelin activity and energy balance in obesity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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