Human plasma ghrelin levels increase during a one-year exercise program

Karen E. Foster-Schubert, Anne McTiernan, R. Scott Frayo, Robert S. Schwartz, Kumar Rajan, Yutaka Yasui, Shelley S. Tworoger, David E. Cummings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Weight loss resulting from decreased caloric intake raises levels of the orexigenic hormone, ghrelin. Because ingested nutrients suppress ghrelin, increased ghrelin levels in hypophagic weight loss may result from decreased inhibitory input by ingested food, rather than from lost weight. We assessed whether ghrelin levels increase in response to exercise-induced weight loss without decreased caloric intake. We randomized 173 sedentary, overweight, postmenopausal women to an aerobic exercise intervention or stretching control group. At baseline, 3 months, and 12 months, we measured body weight and composition, food intake, cardiopulmonary fitness (maximal oxygen consumption), leptin, insulin, and ghrelin. Complete data were available for 168 women (97%) at 12 months. Exercisers lost 1.4 ± 0.4 kg (P < 0.05 compared with baseline; P = 0.01 compared with stretchers) and manifested a significant, progressive increase in ghrelin levels, whereas neither measure changed among stretchers. Ghrelin increased 18% in exercisers who lost more than 3 kg (P < 0.001). There was no change in caloric intake in either group and no effect on ghrelin of exercise per se independent of its impact on body weight. In summary, ghrelin levels increase with weight loss achieved without reduced food intake, consistent with a role for ghrelin in the adaptive response constraining weight loss and, thus, in long-term body weight regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-825
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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