Salivary cortisol differs with age and sex and shows inverse associations with WHR in Swedish women: a cross-sectional study
OBJECTIVE This study was conducted to obtain a detailed profile of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity and reactivity and its differential relationships with body fat distribution and total fat mass in premenopausal obese women. RESEARCH METHODS AND PROCEDURES Cortisol responses to stimulation (awakening, food intake, exercise) and suppression (0.25 mg dexamethasone), cortisol metabolism, and tissue sensitivity to glucocorticoids were studied in 53 premenopausal obese women grouped according to their waist-to hip ratio: women with abdominal body fat distribution (A-BFD; n = 31) and women with peripheral fat distribution (P-BFD; n = 22). RESULTS Comparatively, A-BFD women had 1) lower awakening salivary cortisol levels; 2) increased salivary responsiveness to a standardized lunch; 3) similar pituitary sensitivity to dexamethasone but decreased sensitivity of monocytes to dexamethasone; 4) similar 24-hour urinary free cortisol but increased 24-hour urinary ratio of cortisone-to-cortisol; and 5) no difference in corticosteroid binding protein parameters. DISCUSSION Although abdominal obesity is not very different from generalized obesity in terms of HPA function, subtle variations in HPA axis activity and reactivity are evidenced in A-BFD premenopausal obese women.