Since its discovery in 1999, ghrelin has been implicated in a multiplicity of physiological activities. Most notably, ghrelin has an important influence on energy metabolism and after the identification of its potent appetite stimulating effects ghrelin has been termed the 'hunger hormone'. Exercise is a stimulus which has a significant impact on energy homeostasis and consequently a substantial body of research has investigated the interaction between exercise and ghrelin. This narrative review provides an overview of research relating to the acute and chronic effects of exercise on circulating ghrelin (acylated, unacylated and total). To enhance study comparability, the scope of this review is limited to research undertaken in adult humans and consequently studies involving children and animals are not discussed. Although there is significant ambiguity within much of the early research, our review suggests that acute exercise transiently interferes with the production of acylated ghrelin. Furthermore, the consensus of evidence indicates that exercise training does not influence circulating ghrelin independent of weight loss. Additional research is needed to verify and extend the available literature, particularly by uncovering the mechanisms governing acute exercise-related changes and characterising responses in other populations such as females, older adults, and the obese.
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