Podgórski R, Galiniak S, Mazur A, Domin A. The Association of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis with Appetite Regulation in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). Nutrients. 2023; 15(6):1366. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15061366
Prenatal alcohol exposure causes growth impairment and a wide range of developmental, physical, and cognitive disorders in children, collectively referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). In the course of FASDs, abnormalities can also affect eating behavior and nutritional status, but these problems have received little attention. Therefore, the aim of our study was to determine the levels of hormones involved in the action of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis: proopiomelanocortin (POMC), cortisol, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), in the serum of patients with FASDs. To our knowledge, none of these hormones studied have yet been evaluated in FASDs to date.
We investigated 62 FASD patients and 23 healthy controls by applying an enzyme-linked immunosorbent method (ELISA). Fasting POMC levels were significantly lower in patients with FASDs (10.97 vs. 18,57 ng/mL, p = 0.039) compared to controls. However, there were no differences in cortisol concentrations. Additionally, the sex and subgroup status (fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE), and FASD risk) did not affect hormone levels.
POMC was positively correlated with some clinical parameters such as age, BMI percentile, carbohydrate biomarkers, and ACTH. A positive correlation was observed between ACTH and cortisol levels, as well as ACTH and cholesterol levels. Data analysis showed no HPA axis abnormalities in the form of elevated serum cortisol and ACTH levels. Differences in POMC concentration may indicate the involvement and/or impairment of central nervous system structures in hormonal alterations in FASD individuals, caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Hormonal dysregulation in FASDs can contribute to reduced growth and development, as well as many other disturbed processes, including neurological/neurodevelopmental dysfunctions.
Further insightful studies involving a larger group of patients are needed to determine the potential impact of the measured hormones.