Influence of rest and exercise at a simulated altitude of 4,000 m on appetite, energy intake, and plasma concentrations of acylated ghrelin and peptide YY

Lucy K. Wasse, Caroline Sunderland, James A. King, Rachel L. Batterham, David J. Stensel


The reason for high altitude anorexia is unclear but could involve alterations in the appetite hormones ghrelin and peptide YY (PYY). This study examined the effect of resting and exercising in hypoxia (12.7% O2; ∼4,000 m) on appetite, energy intake, and plasma concentrations of acylated ghrelin and PYY. Ten healthy males completed four, 7-h trials in an environmental chamber in a random order. The four trials were control-normoxia, control-hypoxia, exercise-normoxia, and exercise-hypoxia. During exercise trials, participants ran for 60 min at 70% of altitude-specific maximal oxygen consumption (V̇o2max) and then rested. Participants rested throughout control trials. A standardized meal was consumed at 2 h and an ad libitum buffet meal at 5.5 h. Area under the curve values for hunger (assessed using visual analog scales) tended to be lower during hypoxic trials than normoxic trials (repeated-measures ANOVA, P = 0.07). Ad libitum energy intake was lower (P = 0.001) in hypoxia (5,291 ± 2,189 kJ) than normoxia (7,718 ± 2,356 kJ; means ± SD). Mean plasma acylated ghrelin concentrations were lower in hypoxia than normoxia (82 ± 66 vs. 100 ± 69 pg/ml; P = 0.005) while PYY concentrations tended to be higher in normoxia (32 ± 4 vs. 30 ± 3 pmol/l; P = 0.059). Exercise suppressed hunger and acylated ghrelin and increased PYY but did not influence ad libitum energy intake. These findings confirm that hypoxia suppresses hunger and food intake. Further research is required to determine if decreased concentrations of acylated ghrelin orchestrate this suppression.

  • normoxia
  • hypoxia
  • high altitude anorexia
  • appetite-regulating hormones
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