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Pediatr Int. 2008 Aug;50(4):429-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-200X.2008.02606.x.

Serum ghrelin levels in children with primary protein-energy malnutrition.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey.



Ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating peptide, increases in cachectic conditions. It probably reflects peripheral nutritional status and influences nutrient intake and growth. The aim of the present study was to determine serum ghrelin levels in children with primary protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and to find if any correlation exists between serum ghrelin levels and the clinical presentation of those patients.


Twenty-eight children with primary PEM and 10 healthy children were included. Serum fasting ghrelin levels were measured using radioimmunoassay.


Mean serum ghrelin level of healthy children and those with PEM were 107.7 +/- 40.1 pg/mL and 141.6 +/- 123.8 pg/mL, respectively (P < 0.001). Ghrelin levels were independent of age and sex (P > 0.05). Ghrelin was negatively correlated with body mass index in healthy children (P < 0.01), but not in those with PEM (P > 0.05). Mean serum ghrelin level of children with moderate malnutrition was higher than that of children with severe malnutrition (199.2 +/- 154.1 pg/mL vs 98.4 +/- 74.3 pg/mL, P < 0.05). Mean serum ghrelin levels of patients with kwashiorkor, marasmic kwashiorkor, and marasmus were 127.9 +/- 97.8 pg/mL, 138.7 +/- 95.8 pg/mL, and 162.3 +/- 185.0 pg/mL, respectively (P > 0.05).


Serum ghrelin level is higher in patients with PEM, especially in those with marasmus, compared to healthy children. Although this observation suggests that ghrelin helps to fight malnutrition in children, it is obvious that further studies are needed to clarify the exact pathogenetic mechanism regarding this condition.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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