Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

The postprandial rise in plasma cortisol in men is mediated by macronutrient-specific stimulation of adrenal and extra-adrenal cortisol production

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Brian WalkerORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Context: Circadian variation is a fundamental characteristic of plasma glucocorticoids, with a postprandial rise in cortisol an important feature. The diurnal rhythm is presumed to reflect alterations in hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal axis activity; however, cortisol is produced not only by the adrenal glands but also by regeneration from cortisone by the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1, mainly in liver and adipose tissue. Objective: We tested the contribution of peripheral cortisol regeneration to macronutrient-induced circadian variation of plasma cortisol in humans. Design: This was a randomized, single-blinded, crossover study. Setting: The study was conducted at a hospital research facility. Participants: Eight normal-weight healthy men participated in the study. Interventions: Subjects were given isocaloric energy isodense flavor-matched liquid meals composed of carbohydrate, protein, fat, or low-calorie placebo during infusion of the stable isotope tracer 9,11,12,12-[2H]4-cortisol. Outcome Measures and Results: Plasma cortisol increased similarly after all macronutrient meals (by ∼90 nmol/L) compared with placebo. Carbohydrate stimulated adrenal secretion and extraadrenal regeneration of cortisol to a similar degree. Protein and fat meals stimulated adrenal cortisol secretion to a greater degree than extra-adrenal cortisol regeneration. The increase in cortisol production by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 was in proportion to the increase in insulin. The postprandial cortisol rise was not accounted for by decreased cortisol clearance. Conclusions: Food-induced circadian variation in plasma cortisol is mediated by adrenal secretion and extra-adrenal regeneration of cortisol. Given that the latter has the more potent effect on tissue cortisol concentrations and that effects on adrenal and extra-adrenal cortisol production are macronutrient specific, this novel mechanism may contribute to the physiological interplay between insulin and glucocorticoids and the contrasting effects of certain diets on postprandial metabolism. (J Clin Endocrinol Metab 99: 160-168, 2014). © Copyright 2014 by The Endocrine Society.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stimson RH, Mohd-Shukri NA, Bolton JL, Andrew R, Reynolds RM, Walker BR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism

Year: 2014

Volume: 99

Issue: 1

Pages: 160-168

Print publication date: 01/01/2014

Online publication date: 03/10/2013

Acceptance date: 16/09/2013

ISSN (print): 0021-972X

ISSN (electronic): 1945-7197

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1210/jc.2013-2307

PubMed id: 24092834


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric