Adrenocorticotropin-stimulated adrenal androgen secretion in anorexia nervosa: Impaired secretion at low weight with normalization after long-term weight recovery

Jorg Winterer, Harry E. Gwirtsman, David T. George, Walter H. Kaye, D. Lynn Loriaux, Gordon B. Cutle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Adrenal androgen secretion is decreased in patients with anorexia nervosa. To assess the reversibility of the decreased secretion with recovery of body weight, we measured ACTH-stimulatedadrenal androgen levels at different stages of recovery. Basal plasma GH and somatomedin-C levels also were measured, because both have been proposed as potential stimuli for adrenal androgen secretion. When studied at low body weight [58 ± 3% (±SEM) ideal BW], women with anorexia nervosa had decreased ACTH-stimulated levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHA), DHA sulfate (DHAS), and androstenedione and decreased DHA to cortisol, DHAS to cortisol, and androstenedione to cortisol ratios compared to normal women. Women who had recently completed a refeeding program (within 2-4 weeks, 81 ± 2% ideal BW) had an increased somatomedin-C level compared t o low weight patients, but similar ACTH-stimulated adrenal androgen levels. Long term weight-recovered women (86 ± 4% ideal BW, recovery for more than 6 months, with resumption of menses), however, had significant increases in ACTH-stimulated DHA and DHAS levels and DHA to cortisol and DHAS to cortisol ratios, and their hormone levels and ratios were not different from those in normal women. GH levels fell during weight recovery, although the values in the three patient groups did not differsignificantly. We conclude that the recovery of adrenal androgen secretion while GH levels were falling provides evidence against a direct effect of GH as a stimulus for adrenal androgen secretion. The recovery of somatomedin-C before the recovery of adrenal androgens, however, and the positive correlation between plasma somatomedin-C and the integrated level of plasma DHAS (r = 0.50; P < 0.02) are consistent with the hypothesis that somatomedin-C is a stimulus for adrenal androgen secretion.(J Clin Endocrinol Metab 61 : 0693, 1985).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-697
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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