Short-term fasting suppresses leptin and (conversely) activates disorderly growth hormone secretion in midluteal phase women - A clinical research center study

M. Bergendahl, W. S. Evans, C. Pastor, A. Patel, A. Iranmanesh, J. D. Veldhuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Short term fasting activates the corticotropic and somatotropic, and suppresses the reproductive, axis in men. Analogous neuroendocrine responses are less well characterized in women. Recently, we identified a negative association between the adipocyte-derived nutritional signaling peptide, leptin, and pulsatile GH secretion in older fed women. In the present study, we investigated the impact of acute nutrient deprivation on pulsatile GH and LH secretion and mean leptin concentrations in eight healthy young women in the sex-steroid replete milieu of the midluteal phase of the normal menstrual cycle. Volunteers underwent 24-h blood sampling during randomly ordered, short term (2.5-day), fasting vs. fed sessions in separate menstrual cycles. Pulsatile GH and LH secretion over 24 h was quantified by deconvolution analysis, nyctohemeral rhythmicity was quantified by cosinor analysis, and the orderliness of the GH or LH release process was quantified by the approximate entropy statistic. By paired statistical analysis, a 2.5-day fast failed to alter mean (pooled) 24-h serum concentrations of LH, progesterone, estradiol, or PRL, but increased cortisol levels more than 1.5-fold (P = 0.0003). Concurrently, mean (pooled) serum leptin concentrations fell by 75% (P = 0.0003), and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I; P < 0.05) and insulin decreased significantly (P = 0.0018). In contrast, the daily pulsatile GH secretion rate rose 3-fold (P < 0.001). Amplified daily GH secretion was attributable mechanistically to a 2.3-fold rise in GH secretory burst mass, reflecting an increased GH secretory burst amplitude (P < 0.01). The GH half- life, duration of GH secretory bursts, and GH pulse frequency did not vary during short term fasting. The disorderliness of GH release increased significantly with nutrient restriction (P = 0.005). The mesor and amplitude of the nyctohemeral serum GH concentration rhythm also rose with fasting (P < 0.01), but the timing of maximal serum GH concentrations did not change. Thus, short-term (2.5-day) fasting during the sex steroid-replete midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle in healthy young women profoundly suppresses 24- h serum leptin and insulin (and to a lesser degree, IGF-I) concentrations, augments cortisol release, but fails to alter daily LH, estradiol, or progesterone concentrations. In contrast, the GH axis exhibits strikingly amplified pulsatile secretion, increased nyctohemeral rhythmicity, and marked disorderliness of the release process. We conclude that the somatotropic axis is more evidently vulnerable to short-term nutrient restriction than the reproductive axis in steroidogenically sufficient midluteal phase women. This study invites the question of whether normal (nutritionally replete) GH secretory dynamics can be restored in fasting women by human leptin, insulin, or IGF-I infusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-894
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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