Two ghrelin receptor agonists for adults with malnutrition: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nutr J. 2016 Nov 16;15(1):97. doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0214-5.


Background: Ghrelin receptor agonists have been established to be important in ameliorating the nutritional conditions in patients with malnutrition. However, some studies have reported inconsistent results. We aimed to coalesce the available evidence on the efficacy of ghrelin receptor agonists for the treatment of malnutrition.

Methods: We searched PubMed, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and EMBASE for relevant articles published through March 2016. Studies comparing the efficacy of ghrelin receptor agonists versus placebo in malnourished patients were eligible for inclusion.

Results: A total of 12 studies involving 1377 patients were included. Compared with placebo, ghrelin receptor agonists could increase the energy intake (standard mean difference [SMD] 2.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.48 to 3.85, P < 0.001), lean body mass (weighted mean difference [WMD] 0.25 kg, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.42, P = 0.006), fat mass (WMD 0.92 kg, 95% CI 0.05 to 1.8, P = 0.038), and grip strength (WMD 0.31 kg, 95% CI 0.207 to 0.414, P < 0.001) of patients with malnutrition.

Conclusion: Our analysis indicated that ghrelin receptor agonists could improve the poor nutritional state of malnourished patients by increasing their energy intake, ameliorating their irregular body composition and improving their grip strength. However, these results might be less conclusive due to the limited sample sizes and one potential publication that has not been released.

Keywords: Anamorelin; Anorexia; Cachexia; Ghrelin; Ghrelin receptor agonist; Malnutrition.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / drug therapy*
  • Placebos
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / agonists*


  • Placebos
  • Receptors, Ghrelin