Ghrelin is thought to be involved in the regulation of eating behaviour and energy metabolism in acute and chronic feeding states. Circulating plasma ghrelin levels in healthy humans have been found to decrease significantly after oral glucose administration. Because it is suggested that eating behaviour may influence the secretion of ghrelin and insulin in anorexia nervosa (AN), we examined the effect of oral glucose on ghrelin and insulin secretion in subtypes of AN patients.
Twenty female AN patients and 10 age-matched female controls were subjects. The patients were subdivided into two subtypes based on eating behaviour as follows: 11 restricting type (AN-R), nine binge-eating and purging type (AN-BP). Subjects underwent an oral glucose tolerance test at 08.00 h. Blood was collected 0, 30, 60, 120 and 180 min after the glucose load.
Both AN-R and AN-BP had a significant increased basal ghrelin level (P < 0.01) and a significantly decreased basal insulin level (P < 0.05) as compared to controls. The time of the nadir of mean ghrelin in AN-BP (120 min, 58.1% of basal level, 204.9 +/- 34.3 pmol/l, mean +/- SEM) was delayed compared to controls (60 min, 60.2%, 74.3 +/- 7.9 pmol/l), and in the AN-R group it kept decreasing for 180 min (80.0%, 182.4 +/- 31.5 pmol/l). The peaks insulin levels in AN-BP (120 min, 319.3 +/- 88.8 pmol/l) and AN-R (180 min, 418.9 +/- 68.4 pmol/l) were also delayed as compared to controls (60 min, 509.2 +/- 88.8 pmol/l). The glucose level at 180 min in AN-R was significantly (P < 0.05) higher than in controls.
These findings suggest that differences in eating behaviour in AN may induce alterations in both ghrelin and insulin metabolism in the acute feeding state. Furthermore, metabolic changes in the restrictive eating pattern may be related to the pathophysiology of small quantitative meal intake in AN-R patients.