Changes in plasma ghrelin levels following surgical and non-surgical weight-loss in female rats predict alcohol use

Elise Orellana, Nelli Horvath, Mehdi Farokhnia, Lorenzo Leggio, Andras Hajnal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The weight-loss surgery Roux-en Y gastric bypass (RYGB) is a relatively effective, long-term treatment option for patients with morbid obesity. However, accumulating clinical evidence suggests that patients receiving RYGB may be at increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder. This observation has been repeatedly supported by preclinical studies showing rodents increase intake of ethanol (EtOH) after RYGB, and has been further confirmed by human studies. A promising alternative to RYGB is sleeve gastrectomy (SG), which has resulted in decreased EtOH consumption in some rodent studies. The exact mechanism underlying the differential alcohol outcomes after RYGB versus SG has yet to be elucidated. However, the gut hormone ghrelin has emerged as a potential candidate from previous preclinical studies specific to RYGB surgeries and due to its action to stimulate food and alcohol intake and cravings. To directly assess changes in plasma ghrelin levels following weigh loss surgeries in the context of alcohol intake, 24 female rats were separated into three surgical groups receiving RYGB, SG, or Sham surgery followed by caloric restriction to produce adiposity matched controls (Sham-AM). Blood was drawn for fasted and fed plasma ghrelin (acyl and des-acyl) assays at multiple time points: while on a normal diet (ND), after 5-week exposure to a high fat diet (HFD), following surgery, and after a series of two-bottle alcohol choice test with increasing concentrations (2%, 4%, 6%, 8%) of EtOH. Consistent with previous observations, RYGB rats drank more EtOH than SG rats across all concentrations. As expected, fasted ghrelin levels were blunted after HFD feeding, compared to normal diet baseline. After RYGB, fasted ghrelin levels returned to higher levels while remained blunted after SG and Sham-AM. Fed acyl ghrelin levels were significantly increased to above “normal” levels after RYGB, but remain low after SG and Sham-AM. Given that post-RYGB acyl ghrelin levels are raised to a fasted state regardless of actual prandial status, we conclude that RYGB may results in a hormonal state reminiscence of a fasted state with the inability of feeding to inhibit ghrelin production, an effect which could potentially contribute to increased EtOH intake following the surgery. In contrast, following SG, ghrelin levels in rats remain consistent with the fed state regardless of prandial status, potentially explaining lower alcohol intake and lower risk of developing AUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-186
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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