CONTEXT: Ghrelin infusion increases plasma glucose and nonesterified fatty acids, but it is uncertain whether this is secondary to the concomitant release of GH. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to study direct effects of ghrelin on substrate metabolism. DESIGN: This was a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled two-period crossover study. SETTING: The study was performed in a university clinical research laboratory. PARTICIPANTS: Eight healthy men aged 27.2 +/- 0.9 yr with a body mass index of 23.4 +/- 0.5 kg/m(2) were included in the study. INTERVENTION: Subjects received infusion of ghrelin (5 pmol x kg(-1) x min(-1)) or placebo for 5 h together with a pancreatic clamp (somatostatin 330 microg x h(-1), insulin 0.1 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1), GH 2 ng x kg(-1) x min(-1), and glucagon 0.5 ng.kg(-1) x min(-1)). A hyperinsulinemic (0.6 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1)) euglycemic clamp was performed during the final 2 h of each infusion. RESULTS: Basal and insulin-stimulated glucose disposal decreased with ghrelin [basal: 1.9 +/- 0.1 (ghrelin) vs. 2.3 +/- 0.1 mg x kg(-1) x min(-1), P = 0.03; clamp: 3.9 +/- 0.6 (ghrelin) vs. 6.1 +/- 0.5 mg x kg(-1) x min(-1), P = 0.02], whereas endogenous glucose production was similar. Glucose infusion rate during the clamp was reduced by ghrelin [4.0 +/- 0.7 (ghrelin) vs. 6.9 +/- 0.9 mg.kg(-1) x min(-1); P = 0.007], whereas nonesterified fatty acid flux increased [131 +/- 26 (ghrelin) vs. 69 +/- 5 micromol/min; P = 0.048] in the basal period. Regional lipolysis (skeletal muscle, sc fat) increased insignificantly with ghrelin infusion. Energy expenditure during the clamp decreased after ghrelin infusion [1539 +/- 28 (ghrelin) vs. 1608 +/- 32 kcal/24 h; P = 0.048], but the respiratory quotient did not differ. Minor but significant elevations in serum levels of GH and cortisol were observed after ghrelin infusion. CONCLUSIONS: Administration of exogenous ghrelin causes insulin resistance in muscle and stimulates lipolysis; these effects are likely to be direct, although a small contribution of GH and cortisol cannot be excluded.
Keywords: Adult; Blood Glucose; Calorimetry, Indirect; Cross-Over Studies; Energy Metabolism; Fatty Acids, Nonesterified; Ghrelin; Glucagon; Glucose; Glucose Clamp Technique; Humans; Hydrocortisone; Lipid Metabolism; Male; Microdialysis; Muscle, Skeletal; Single-Blind Method