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J Physiol Anthropol. 2006 Jan;25(1):133-45.

The detrimental effects of allostasis: allostatic load as a measure of cumulative stress.

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  • 1Social and Behavioral Sciences, Columbus State Community College, Columbus, OH 43216, USA.


Since its inception in the 1980s, through further developments during the 1990s, and continuing today, the paradigm of allostatic load (AL) has becomed an important paradigm for predicting senescence and mortality. AL is a cumulative measure of the effects of multiple stressors and the process of responding to stressors on the soma. AL measurements of individuals is being tested on various samples and species and being reported across a variety of medical and social science journals. From the ISI Web of Science, all articles published between January 2000 and June 2005 with AL in any default category were obtained and transferred to Endnote. These articles, categorized as theory/review or data-driven, human or animal, and variability in risk factors used to estimate AL, are reviewed here. Only two of 90 reports were published in anthropological journals, likely, at least partly, because research on AL has focused more on western, industrialized populations where data are more easily obtained. From 2000-2005, 12 of 42 data-driven reports focused on elderly humans. Studies of animal models also are common (0 in 2000, but 4 in 2004 covering 21 species). During the last year, multiple additional potential physiological variables have been tested as measures of AL (10 to 20 in any one article). In the past half decade, AL also has been introduced to a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, anthropology, gerontology, veterinary medicine, and medical specialties, as a viable research theme. AL appears to provide a useful method for determining cumulative somatic stress such as that seen with senescence and frailty at older ages.

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