Relationship between ghrelin levels, alcohol craving, and nutritional status in current alcoholic patients

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Nov;30(11):1933-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00238.x.


Background: Ghrelin is a peptide produced mainly by the gut and hypothalamus. Ghrelin is able to stimulate food-seeking behavior. Alcohol-craving and food-seeking behavior could share common neural circuits. Ghrelin is related to nutritional status, but few data are available in alcoholic patients on the relationship between ghrelin and nutritional disorders.

Methods: Plasma ghrelin was evaluated in 15 current alcoholic male patients compared with 15 healthy male volunteers. Craving was evaluated by the Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale. Body composition was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Energy substrate utilization was evaluated by indirect calorimetry.

Results: Ghrelin was significantly reduced in alcohol-dependent patients with respect to healthy subjects (p=0.0278). A significant positive correlation was found between ghrelin and craving (r=0.55; p=0.034). A preferential utilization of lipids as an energy substrate with a reduction of the fat mass (p=0.01) and an increase of the free fat mass (p=0.0091) was found in alcoholic patients.

Conclusions: Within our sample showing low ghrelin levels probably related to the impaired nutritional status; patients with higher levels of ghrelin showed higher levels of alcohol craving. These preliminary data indicate that ghrelin could be implicated in the neurobiological mechanisms of alcohol craving, other than a hormone influenced by the nutritional status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / blood*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Calorimetry, Differential Scanning
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Ghrelin
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obsessive Behavior / psychology
  • Peptide Hormones / blood*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Tests


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ghrelin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Ethanol