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Psychosom Med. 1999 Mar-Apr;61(2):214-24.

Increased salivary cortisol reliably induced by a protein-rich midday meal.

Author information

  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College, London, United Kingdom. l.gibson@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

This study was conducted to determine whether an increase in salivary free cortisol would be reliably elicited by a midday meal, thus providing a convenient physiological challenge to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and whether this cortisol release depended on the protein content of the meal.

METHOD:

In healthy men, free cortisol was measured in saliva samples taken before and after two identical protein-rich midday meals (39% energy as protein) and compared with a day on which no meal was eaten. Next, in healthy women in a nonclinical setting, salivary cortisol was measured before and after a protein-rich meal (32% energy as protein) on one day and a low-protein meal (5% energy as protein) on another day. Measures of mood, appetite, and psychological well-being were also taken.

RESULTS:

An acute meal-dependent increase in salivary cortisol occurred, which was reliable over 2 test days. This increase in cortisol depended on the proportion of protein in the meal, increasing after the high-protein but not the low-protein meal. The extent of this increase in cortisol correlated significantly with poor psychological well-being in women. Some postmeal improvement of mood (positive affect) was associated with the high- but not the low-protein meal.

CONCLUSIONS:

The cortisol response to meals may have implications for the effects of meal composition on mood, cognitive function, and food choice. The measurement of free cortisol in saliva provides a psychologically stress-free and reliable technique to assess the cortisol response to a standard protein-rich meal, ie, a physiological challenge to the HPA axis in men and women that could be investigated in naturalistic settings outside the laboratory.

PMID:
10204975
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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