Background: The nature of the association between ghrelin, an orexigenic hormone produced mainly in the stomach, and Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), a bacterium that colonises the stomach, is still controversial. We examined available evidence to determine whether an association exists between the two; and if one exists, in what direction.
Methods: We reviewed original English language studies on humans reporting circulating ghrelin levels in H pylori infected and un-infected participants; and circulating ghrelin levels before and after H pylori eradication. Meta-analyses were conducted for eligible studies by combining study specific estimates using the inverse variance method with weighted average for continuous outcomes in a random effects model.
Results: Seventeen out of 27 papers that reported ghrelin levels in H pylori positive and negative subjects found lower circulating ghrelin levels in H pylori positive subjects; while 10 found no difference. A meta-analysis of 19 studies with a total of 1801 participants showed a significantly higher circulating ghrelin concentration in H pylori negative participants than in H pylori positive participants (Effect estimate (95%CI) = -0.48 (-0.60, -0.36)). However, eradicating H pylori did not have any significant effect on circulating ghrelin levels (Effect estimate (95% CI) = 0.08 (-0.33, 0.16); Test for overall effect: Z = 0.67 (P = 0.5)).
Conclusions: We conclude that circulating ghrelin levels are lower in H pylori infected people compared to those not infected; but the relationship between circulating ghrelin and eradication of H pylori is more complex.