Is ghrelin a signal of decreased fat-free mass in elderly subjects?

Simona Bertoli, P. Magni, V. Krogh, M. Ruscica, E. Dozio, G. Testolin, A. Battezzati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Aging is associated with appetite decline, weight loss, reduced fat-free mass (FFM), and increased fat mass (FM). Ghrelin and leptin are short- and long-term determinants of energy balance respectively, whose dysregulation could alter food intake. We evaluate the relationship of circulating ghrelin and leptin responses to standardized oral mixed nutrient load (SOMNL) with body composition, daily food intake, and insulin sensitivity in healthy elderly subjects (ES). Design and methods: Twenty-six ES (12/14 M/F, 69 ± 4 years) and ten young healthy controls (LY) (5/5 M/F, 27 ± 3 years) were studied at the International Center for the Assessment of Nutritional Status (Milan, Italy) with air plethysmography, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, indirect calorimetry, and dietary intake assessment. Basal and postprandial ghrelin, leptin, testosterone, glucose, insulin and C-peptide concentrations, and insulin resistance (homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-R)) and sensitivity (quantitative insulin-sensitivity check index (QUICKI)) were evaluated. Results: Basal ghrelin levels were similar in ES and LY, whereas leptin was higher in ES than LY, in agreement with the higher amount of FM. Basal and percentage change in ghrelin were inversely related to FFM, appendicular skeletal muscle mass (SMM), and QUICKI, but not to FM. Basal and percentage change in leptin were directly related to FM and not to FFM indexes. Ghrelin basal concentration was negatively correlated with energy and protein intake and with QUICKI. Percentage change in Ghrelin after SOMNL correlated negatively with protein intake, but positively with resting energy expenditure and energy intake, and glucose, insulin, C-peptide basal concentrations, and HOMA-R. Conclusion: In ES, basal and postprandial ghrelin increases with FFM, specifically SMM, reduction, whereas leptin increases with relative FM increases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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