Scacchi M, Invitti C, Pincelli AI, Pandolfi C, Dubini A, Cavagnini F. Lack of growth hormone response to acute administration of dexamethasone in anorexia nervosa. Eur J Endocrinol 1995;132:152–8. ISSN 0804–4643
High plasma growth hormone (GH) levels, associated with abnormal hormone responses to provocative stimuli, point to an altered GH secretion in anorexia nervosa. The GH-releasing effect of acutely administered glucocorticoids, firmly established in normal subjects, has not been reported in these patients. In this study, acute iv administration of 4 mg of dexamethasone, compared with saline, increased plasma GH in nine normal-weight women (AUC 848.2 ± 127.95 vs 242.8 ± 55.35 μg·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05, respectively) but was ineffective in 11 anorectic patients (AUC 3271.8 ± 1407.11 vs 2780.0 ± 1162.04 μg·l−1·min−1, NS). After dexamethasone, a significant lowering of plasma cortisol was observed in normal women (AUC 25367.0 ± 3128.43 vs 47347.1 ± 4456.61 nmol·l−1·min−1, after dexamethasone and saline, respectively, p < 0.05), but not in anorectic patients (AUC 77809.3 ± 8499.92 vs 78454.9 ± 7603.62 nmol·l−1·min−1, NS). In both groups, plasma adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) displayed a significant decrease after dexamethasone (AUC 523.6 ± 92.08 vs 874.2 ± 115.03 pmol·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05, after dexamethasone and saline, respectively, in anorectic patients and 377.5 ± 38.41 vs 1004.9 ± 200.51 pmol·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05, in controls). However, when considering the hormonal decremental areas, a significant dexamethasone-induced ACTH inhibition, compared to saline, was evidenced in normal (ΔAUC –414.4 ± 65.75 vs 222.9 ± 42.40 pmol·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05) but not in anorectic women (ΔAUC –254.2 ± 96.92 vs 2.9 ± 132.32 pmol·l−1·min−1, NS). In conclusion, compared to normal subjects, anorectic patients do not display an increase of plasma GH levels and show a lower degree of inhibition of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis following acute iv administration of dexamethasone. This observation broadens the array of the abnormal GH responses to provocative stimuli in anorexia nervosa and supports the existence, in these patients, of a decreased hypothalamic somatostatin secretion, although the possibility of a reduced tissue sensitivity to glucocorticoids cannot be excluded.
Francesco Cavagnini, 2nd Chair of Endocrinology, University of Milan, Istituto Scientifico Ospedale San Luca, Centro Auxologico Italiano, via Spagnoletto 3, 20149 Milano, Italy