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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Apr 1;302(7):E800-6. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00598.2011. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Higher ghrelin and lower leptin secretion are associated with lower LH secretion in young amenorrheic athletes compared with eumenorrheic athletes and controls.

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Neuroendocrine Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, 02114, USA.


Amenorrhea is common in young athletes and is associated with low fat mass. However, hormonal factors that link decreased fat mass with altered gonadotropin pulsatility and amenorrhea are unclear. Low levels of leptin (an adipokine) and increased ghrelin (an orexigenic hormone that increases as fat mass decreases) impact gonadotropin pulsatility. Studies have not examined luteinizing hormone (LH) secretory dynamics in relation to leptin or ghrelin secretory dynamics in adolescent and young adult athletes. We hypothesized that 1) young amenorrheic athletes (AA) would have lower LH and leptin and higher ghrelin secretion than eumenorrheic athletes (EA) and nonathletes and 2) higher ghrelin and lower leptin would be associated with lower LH secretion. This was a cross-sectional study. We examined ghrelin and leptin secretory patterns (over 8 h, from 11 PM to 7 AM) in relation to LH secretory patterns in AA, EA, and nonathletes aged 14-21 yr. Ghrelin and leptin were assessed every 20 min and LH every 10 min. Groups did not differ for age, bone age, or BMI. However, fat mass was lower in AA than in EA and nonathletes. AA had lower LH and higher ghrelin pulsatile secretion and AUC than nonathletes and lower leptin pulsatile secretion and AUC than EA and nonathletes. Percent body fat was associated positively with LH and leptin secretion and inversely with ghrelin. In a regression model, ghrelin and leptin secretory parameters were associated independently with LH secretory parameters. We conclude that higher ghrelin and lower leptin secretion in AA related to lower fat mass may contribute to altered LH pulsatility and amenorrhea.


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