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Kidney Int. 2009 Jul;76(2):199-206. doi: 10.1038/ki.2009.114. Epub 2009 Apr 22.

Sustained appetite improvement in malnourished dialysis patients by daily ghrelin treatment.

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Department of Investigative Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK.


Malnutrition is a common complication in patients on dialysis and is strongly associated with poor prognosis. Effective therapy could substantially improve morbidity and mortality, but neither enteral nor parenteral supplementation provide long-term benefit because of the strong appetite suppression seen in such patients. We performed a double-blinded randomized crossover study of a week-long treatment with daily subcutaneous ghrelin, a gut hormone that regulates hunger through the hypothalamus, in a group of 12 malnourished dialysis patients. Ghrelin administration increased ghrelin levels in circulation, modestly reduced blood pressure for up to 2 h, and immediately and significantly increased appetite, with an increase in energy intake noted at the first study meal. Persistence of this effect throughout the week was confirmed with food diaries and final study meals. Energy expenditure, measured with free-living pulse and motion monitors, was unchanged by ghrelin. Our study shows that daily treatment with ghrelin achieves a sustained positive change in energy balance in malnourished dialysis patients. Direct manipulation of appetite with ghrelin or its analogs represents an attractive and promising therapeutic strategy for this difficult clinical problem.

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