• ghrelin;
  • BMD;
  • bone turnover;
  • osteoporosis;
  • aging


Laboratory studies suggest that ghrelin is involved in bone metabolism, but studies of ghrelin and bone in humans are limited. We studied sex-specific associations of ghrelin with BMD, NTX, and bone loss. Ghrelin was not associated with BMD or bone loss in either sex. There was a significant inverse association with NTX in men but not in women.

Introduction: Ghrelin is a gastric hormone recently shown to be associated with bone metabolism in animal and in vitro studies. Studies in humans are limited. We investigated the association of ghrelin with BMD, the bone resorption marker N-telopeptide (NTX), and bone loss in older men and women.

Materials and Methods: Participants were 977 community-dwelling men and non–estrogen-using postmenopausal women, 50–91 years of age. Plasma ghrelin was measured by radioimmunoassay from blood obtained between 1984 and 1987. Between 1988 and 1991, BMD was measured at the midshaft radius by single photon absorptiometry and at the femoral neck, total hip, and lumbar spine by DXA. Axial BMD measurements were repeated an average of 4 years later in 544 participants. Bone turnover was assessed by NTX in urine obtained at the same time as the initial BMD. Multiple regression analyses were used to test sex-specific associations of ghrelin with BMD, NTX, and bone loss in both sexes.

Results: No significant ghrelin–BMD or ghrelin–bone loss associations were observed in either sex, after adjusting for age and body mass index (BMI). Ghrelin was inversely associated with NTX in men and positively associated with NTX in women, independent of age. After adjusting for both age and BMI, this association reached statistical significance in men and was weakened in women.

Conclusions: Ghrelin may be associated with bone turnover, but there is no evidence for an association with BMD or short-term change in BMD in older adults.