Role of the ghrelin system in alcohol use disorder and alcohol-associated liver disease: A narrative review

Kusum K. Kharbanda, Mehdi Farokhnia, Sara L. Deschaine, Raghav Bhargava, Marcela Rodriguez-Flores, Carol A. Casey, Anthony P. Goldstone, Elisabet Jerlhag, Lorenzo Leggio, Karuna Rasineni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Unhealthy alcohol consumption is a global health problem. Adverse individual, public health, and socioeconomic consequences are attributable to harmful alcohol use. Epidemiological studies have shown that alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD) are the top two pathologies among alcohol-related diseases. Consistent with the major role that the liver plays in alcohol metabolism, uncontrolled drinking may cause significant damage to the liver. This damage is initiated by excessive fat accumulation in the liver, which can further progress to advanced liver disease. The only effective therapeutic strategies currently available for ALD are alcohol abstinence or liver transplantation. Any molecule with dual-pronged effects at the central and peripheral organs controlling addictive behaviors and associated metabolic pathways are a potentially important therapeutic target for treating AUD and ALD. Ghrelin, a hormone primarily derived from the stomach, has such properties, and regulates both behavioral and metabolic functions. In this review, we highlight recent advances in understanding the peripheral and central functions of the ghrelin system and its role in AUD and ALD pathogenesis. We first discuss the correlation between blood ghrelin concentrations and alcohol use or abstinence. Next, we discuss the role of ghrelin in alcohol-seeking behaviors and finally its role in the development of fatty liver by metabolic regulations and organ crosstalk. We propose that a better understanding of the ghrelin system could open an innovative avenue for improved treatments for AUD and associated medical consequences, including ALD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2149-2159
Number of pages11
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • alcohol
  • alcohol use disorder
  • alcohol-associated liver disease
  • ghrelin
  • gut–brain axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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