Pathogenetic Role of Cortisol in Metabolic Syndrome (stress and digestive health issues)

Connie’s notes: Stress can cause memory tangles, first step in Alzheimer’s disease. Stress, sugar and lack of sleep put too much load to the brain, making detox process difficult. Take your calcium and magnesium supplements during the afternoon and night time and strive to get enough sleep. Most brain disease starts with digestive issues such as constipation. When our bowels do not move, some of the bacteria might find their way into our brain.

Panagiotis Anagnostis, Vasilios G. Athyros, Konstantinos Tziomalos, Asterios Karagiannis and Dimitri P. Mikhailidis

Context: The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a cluster of metabolic abnormalities that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus and vascular disease. The common characteristics of MetS and hypercortisolemic conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome (CS) suggest that the pathogenesis of MetS and central obesity might involve prolonged and excessive exposure to glucocorticoids. The present review summarizes the evidence on the potential role of cortisol in the pathogenesis of MetS and discusses new therapeutic approaches for these patients.

Evidence Acquisition: Using PubMed, we searched for publications during the last 20 yr regarding the possible pathogenetic role of cortisol in the development of MetS.

Evidence Synthesis: Emerging data suggest that patients with MetS show hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which leads to a state of “functional hypercortisolism.” The cause for this activation of the HPA axis remains uncertain but may be partly associated with chronic stress and/or low birth weight, which are both associated with increased circulating cortisol levels and greater responsiveness of the HPA axis. Increased exposure to cortisol contributes to increased fat accumulation in visceral depots. However, cortisol metabolism is not only centrally regulated. The action of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 at the tissue level also modulates cortisol metabolism. Increased 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 activity in adipose tissue and liver might contribute to the development of several features of the MetS.

Conclusions: MetS shares many characteristics of CS, and cortisol might play a role in the development of MetS at both a central and a peripheral level.

Received February 17, 2009.
Accepted May 19, 2009.
– Author Affiliations
1. Endocrinology Clinic (P.A.), Hippokration Hospital, GR-546 42 Thessaloniki, Greece; Second Propedeutic Department of Internal Medicine (V.G.A., A.K.), Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Hippokration Hospital, GR-546 42 Thessaloniki, Greece; and Departments of Clinical Biochemistry (Vascular Prevention Clinic) and Surgery (K.T., D.P.M.), Royal Free Hospital Campus, University College Medical School, University College London, London NW3 2QG, United Kingdom
1. Address all correspondence and requests for reprints to: Dimitri P. Mikhailidis, M.D., FFPM, FRCP, FRCPath, Academic Head, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Royal Free Hospital Campus, University College Medical School, University College London, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, United Kingdom. E-mail:

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