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Springer Nature [academic journals on], Translational Psychiatry, 1(13), 2023

DOI: 10.1038/s41398-023-02517-z



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Childhood sexual abuse is associated with higher total ghrelin serum levels in adulthood: results from a large, population-based study

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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AbstractGhrelin is an orexigenic peptide hormone synthesized in times of stress and hunger and alterations of the ghrelin system following acute stressors could be repeatedly shown in humans. However, little data exists on long-term effects of trauma on the ghrelin system. We aimed to investigate the influence of childhood trauma on total ghrelin serum levels in a large, population-based study. Total serum ghrelin was measured in 1666 participants of a population-based cross-sectional study (‘LIFE study’). The Childhood Trauma Screener (CTS) was used for the assessment of childhood trauma in the final sample (n = 1086; mean age: 57.10 ± 16.23 years; 632 males, 454 females). Multiple linear regression analyses and generalized linear models were chosen to examine the association between childhood trauma and total serum ghrelin concentrations. Childhood sexual abuse went along with significantly higher ghrelin serum levels in the total sample (β = 0.114, t = 3.958; p = 0.00008) and in women (β = 0.142, t = 3.115; p = 0.002), but not in men (β = 0.055; t = 1.388; p = 0.166). Women with severe emotional neglect in the childhood had higher ghrelin levels than those without (odds ratio = 1.204; p = 0.018). For the CTS Sum Score and other CTS sub-scale scores, no significant association with ghrelin serum levels was found. Our study is the first to show associations between childhood sexual trauma and total ghrelin levels in adults in a large, community-based sample. Our results should initiate further research of the role of ghrelin in human stress response in prospective study designs.