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Metabolism. 2011 Nov;60(11):1521-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2011.03.018. Epub 2011 May 31.

Impaired adrenergic- and corticotropic-axis outflow during exercise in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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  • 1Endocrine Service, Medical Section, Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Salem, VA 24153, USA.


Exercise stimulates coordinated release of the sympathoadrenal hormones adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, norepinephrine (NE), and epinephrine (Epi). The study hypothesis was that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is marked by heightened sympathoadrenal outflow at comparable relative workloads. The location of the study was at a clinical research unit. Eight healthy men and 9 men with stable COPD (forced expiratory volume at 1 second <75% predicted) were studied. Volunteers rested (baseline) or exercised at individual submaximal (35% ± 5%) or maximal oxygen consumption. Blood was sampled every 2 minutes for 40 minutes concurrently. Two-way analysis of covariance was applied to examine group (healthy/COPD) and exercise (3 levels) effects on ACTH, cortisol, NE, and Epi release and regularity (estimable by approximate entropy). The timing of peak hormone concentrations was Epi, 14 minutes; NE, 16 minutes; ACTH, 22 minutes; and cortisol, 34 minutes in both cohorts. Type of exercise regimen influenced all 4 hormones (each P < .001), and subject group (control vs COPD) affected cortisol (P < .001) and Epi (P = .048) responses. Exercise regimen and group together controlled ACTH, cortisol, and Epi (each P < .001), but not NE, responses. In particular, endocrine responses were attenuated in COPD compared with control subjects. Approximate entropy analysis also identified loss of maximal exercise-induced ACTH-secretory regularity in COPD patients (P = .042). These outcomes demonstrate impaired rather than augmented exercise-associated sympathocorticotropic-axis outflow in patients with COPD even when outcomes are normalized to maximal oxygen consumption, suggesting that factors other than fitness are at work.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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