Anti-androgen treatment increases circulating ghrelin levels in obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome

A. Gambineri, U. Pagotto, M. Tschöp, V. Vicennati, E. Manicardi, A. Carcello, M. Cacciari, R. De Iasio, R. Pasquali

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In a previous study we were the first to describe a negative correlation between circulating ghrelin concentrations and androgen levels in human plasma, suggesting an interaction between ghrelin and the endocrine regulation of reproductive physiology. We now investigated a potential direct regulatory influence of circulating androgens on plasma ghrelin levels. Fourteen obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) on a hypocaloric diet were randomly assigned to treatment groups (open-labeled design), receiving either placebo (no.= 7) or the antiandrogen flutamide (no.=7) for 6 months. Anthropometry, visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous (SAT) adipose tissue (quantified by computerized tomography), plasma hormone levels, insulin sensitivity indexes (Quantitative Insulin-Sensitivity Check Index-QUICKI) and Homeostatic Model Assessment applied to the oral glucose tolerance test (HOMAOGTT) were evaluated at baseline and at the end of the study. Body weight decreased and insulin resistance indexes improved in both groups. A tendency toward a greater loss of VAT was observed in the flutamide group. Only in the flutamide group was a significant reduction of androgens levels observed. Plasma ghrelin levels significantly increased following treatment with flutamide, while ghrelin remained unchanged in the placebo group. We observed a negative correlation between changes of ghrelin levels and changes of androgen plasma concentration in the flutamide-treated group. In the same group a positive correlation was found between plasma ghrelin changes and insulin sensitivity as expressed by HOMAOGTT. Analysis in a multiple regression model, however, showed that plasma ghrelin changes were mainly due to changes of androgen levels rather than improved insulin sensitivity. We, therefore, conclude that androgens are independent modulators of circulating ghrelin concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-634
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation: Official Journal of the Italian Society of Endocrinology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Androgens
  • Flutamide
  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin resistance
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome


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