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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004 Mar;7(2):169-73.

Relationship between stress, inflammation and metabolism.

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Service of Anesthesiology, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.



Various threatening stimuli, such as pain, low blood pressure, or infection, elicit a set of neuroendocrine responses that include an increased secretion of catecholamines and glucocorticoid from the adrenal gland and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. These hormonal secretions allow a "fight or flight" response by mobilizing endogenous substrate. They also exert anti-insulin actions, and may in the long term induce a state of insulin resistance. In addition, stress stimulates inflammatory mediators in mononuclear cells. Given the possible role of low-grade inflammation in chronic metabolic disorders, this suggests that stress may be a factor in the development of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome.


Studies reviewed in this article cover: (1) the metabolic and haemodynamic effects of stress in healthy and insulin-resistant individuals; (2) the relationship between stress and inflammation and the role of the autonomic nervous system; and (3) some factors known to modulate the neuroendocrine responses to stress. Future perspectives, together with some hints regarding the role of neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, are delineated.


Recent work performed in the field has indicated that stress may be a significant factor in the pathogenesis of metabolic disorders. Nutritional intervention or pharmacological agents targeted at modulating stress should be investigated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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