Serum ghrelin and prediction of metabolic parameters in over 20-year follow-up

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Ghrelin is a peptide hormone from the stomach, with an ability to release growth-hormone from the pituitary. Numerous cross-sectional studies indicate that ghrelin also has a role in metabolic abnormalities, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, but evidence for long-term effect is scarce. We investigated, whether ghrelin concentration measured in middle age would predict the development or absence of metabolic disturbances subsequently. Study population consisted of 600 middle-aged persons, and the follow-up time was approximately 21 years. Plasma total ghrelin concentration was measured at the baseline, and divided to tertiles. Numerous anthropometric and other clinical measurements (including blood pressure), and laboratory test were made both at the baseline and at the follow-up. After the follow-up the prevalence of high systolic blood pressure according to MetS IDF-criteria was the lowest in the highest ghrelin tertile, and the highest in the first (p < 0.03). When only subjects free of hypertension medication at baseline were considered, subjects belonging to the highest ghrelin tertile developed less new hypertension and high blood pressure according to IDF-criteria as well as medication for it during the follow-up (p < 0.05). Although serum insulin levels were negatively correlated to ghrelin levels at both points in time (p < 0.001 at baseline and p = 0.003 at follow-up), plasma ghrelin concentration did not predict the development of abnormalities in glucose tolerance. The association with ghrelin and metabolic syndrome was lost during the follow-up. In conclusion, our results suggest high ghrelin to be protective against the development of hypertension in the long-term follow-up.

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