Gastric bypass does not normalize obesity-related changes in ghrelin profile and leads to higher acylated ghrelin fraction




Gastric bypass (GBP) lowers food intake, body weight, and insulin resistance in severe obesity (SO). Ghrelin is a gastric orexigenic and adipogenic hormone contributing to modulate energy balance and insulin action. Total plasma ghrelin (T-Ghr) level is low and inversely related to body weight and insulin resistance in moderately obese patients, but these observations may not extend to the orexigenic acylated form (A-Ghr) whose plasma concentration increase in moderate obesity.

Design and Methods:

We investigated the impact of GBP on plasma T-, A-, and A/T-Ghr in SO patients (n = 28, 20 women), with measurements at baseline and 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery. Additional cross-sectional comparison was performed between nonobese, moderately obese, and SO individuals before GBP and at the end of the follow-up period.


Before GBP, SO had lowest T-Ghr and highest A/T-Ghr profile compared with both nonobese and moderately obese individuals. Lack of early (0-3 months from GBP) T-Ghr changes masked a sharp increase in A-Ghr and A/T-Ghr profile (P < 0.05) that remained elevated following later increments (6-12 months) of both T- and A-Ghr (P < 0.05). Levels of A-Ghr and A/T-Ghr at 12 months of follow-up remained higher than in matched moderately obese individuals not treated with surgery (P < 0.05).


The data show that following GBP, early T-Ghr stability masks elevation of A/T-Ghr, that is stabilized after later increments of both T- and A-hormones. GBP does not normalize the obesity-associated elevated A/T-Ghr ratio, instead resulting in enhanced A-Ghr excess. Excess A-Ghr is unlikely to contribute to, and might limit, the common GBP-induced declines of appetite, body weight, and insulin resistance.