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DE Laaksonen, L Niskanen, K Punnonen, K Nyyssonen, TP Tuomainen, R Salonen, R Rauramaa, and JT Salonen

OBJECTIVE: Mild hypoandrogenism in men is associated with features of the metabolic syndrome, but the association with the metabolic syndrome itself using an accepted definition has not been described. DESIGN: Men with the metabolic syndrome were identified and testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels were determined in a population-based cohort of 1896 non-diabetic middle-aged Finnish men. RESULTS: Calculated free testosterone and SHBG were 11% and 18% lower (P<0.001) in men with the metabolic syndrome (n=345, World Health Organisation definition). After categorisation by tertiles and adjusting for age and body mass index, total and free testosterone and SHBG were inversely associated with concentrations of insulin, glucose, triglycerides, C-reactive protein (CRP) and CRP-adjusted ferritin and positively associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Men with free testosterone levels in the lowest third were 2.7 (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0-3.7) times more likely to have the metabolic syndrome in age-adjusted analyses, and 1.7 (95% CI 1.2-2.4) times more likely even after further adjusting for body mass index. Exclusion of men with cardiovascular disease did not alter the association. The inverse association of SHBG with the metabolic syndrome was somewhat stronger. CONCLUSIONS: Low testosterone and SHBG levels were strongly associated not only with components of the metabolic syndrome, but also with the metabolic syndrome itself, independently of body mass index. Furthermore, sex hormones were associated with inflammation and body iron stores. Even in the absence of late-stage consequences such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, subtle derangements in sex hormones are present in the metabolic syndrome, and may contribute to its pathogenesis.

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Ursula Mager, Marjukka Kolehmainen, Vanessa D F de Mello, Ursula Schwab, David E Laaksonen, Rainer Rauramaa, Helena Gylling, Mustafa Atalay, Leena Pulkkinen, and Matti Uusitupa


We examined the expression of ghrelin and ghrelin receptors in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and evaluated the effect of weight loss or exercise on plasma ghrelin concentrations in subjects with the metabolic syndrome.

Design and methods

Data from 75 overweight/obese subjects randomized to a weight loss, aerobic exercise, resistance exercise or control group for a 33-week intervention period were analysed. The plasma ghrelin concentrations and indices of insulin and glucose metabolism were assessed, and mRNA expression of ghrelin, its receptors and various cytokines in PBMCs was studied using real-time PCR.


Ghrelin and GH secretagogue receptor 1b were expressed in PBMCs of subjects with metabolic syndrome. Ghrelin gene expression correlated positively with the expressions of tumour necrosis factor-α (P<0.001), interleukin-1β (P<0.001) and interleukin-6 (P=0.026) during the study, but was not associated with the plasma ghrelin concentration. Genotype-specific ghrelin gene expression in PBMCs was found for the −604G/A and the −501A/C polymorphisms in the ghrelin gene. At baseline, the plasma ghrelin levels were associated with fasting serum insulin concentrations, insulin sensitivity index and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. However, longitudinally weight, BMI or waist circumference and acute insulin response in i.v. glucose tolerance test were stronger predictors of the ghrelin concentration. Plasma ghrelin did not change over the study period in the weight reduction group, but it tended to decrease in the control group (P=0.050).


Ghrelin mRNA expression in PBMCs suggests an autocrine role for ghrelin within an immune microenvironment. Moderate long-term weight loss may prevent a decline in ghrelin concentration over time in individuals with metabolic syndrome.